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October 20, 2020 9:12 am
Kathy Pittman lost her husband to a brain tumor when her daughters were just 6 and 4. In this episode, she shares her story--dealing with her grief, trying to make ends meet financially, and raising two girls alone.
Neil on the season of Mr. Stillman's opus.
I'm spending some time interviewing my clients here at Rosewood will over the years I've had the chance to work with a lot of different people and a lot of them have really interesting stories to tell.
Maybe they have a really neat job. Maybe they've accomplished something very impressive work. Maybe I just had things happen to them in life, good or bad that make for interesting stories today. I'm talking with Kathy Pittman about her experience becoming a widow, her husband Maurice died of a brain tumor at a very young age. While their daughters were just six and four. She shares with us all of the difficult things that she had to deal with both the financial aspects, the emotional aspects raising two daughters on her own. She also talks through some of the things she's really glad that she did things that she might do differently if you had a chance to do it over again.
What are really difficult subjects covered in this conversation but I really appreciate Kathy sharing and so well articulating some of the things she's had to deal with in her life. Here's my conversation with Kathy.
So Kathy walked me through when when everything just hit the fan. Initially, how did it all unfold around Thanksgiving and I was working at the VA as a nurse and I got a call from my mother-in-law and she said that Marise got lost in downtown Durham when they were driving and she was concerned and I thought that's strange and then Marise got on the phone. He said well you know how that loop is downtown is kinda crazy anyway and I thought well yeah that's true so didn't pay much attention to that and it was about a week.
10 days later he called me from the office. He owns a small business and did his own books and that's before computers for small businesses pretty much did not have computers at that time so everything was on ledgers and he couldn't make the deposit work out and he asked me to come down so I came down and I was looking I could see that somehow going straight across the row hit his site must not of been able to follow because he wrote some of the numbers on the row below and I was trying to fix that and he could not follow what I was doing and I could make them understand and he was getting really frustrated and I said I think we need to go to the doctor because this isn't normal for you and so we got it. Doctors appointment went to a neurologist. Long story short he had some kind of test where they did something and they found something and he was in ICU and I was at home, talking to him and then I got a call about five minutes later from a nurse and was anything going on.
Strange and enlightened know we just said goodbye and she said what he just had a grandma seizure which was the big one, the scary one and so anyway it was December 23. We got a diagnosis and I took him home on diagnosed slavishly with brain cancer and fast growing and he brought home and that was I guess brought home on Christmas Eve, think, and then we had Christmas together and he had purchased presence. He had it uncle who was a jeweler and so he had purchased presence that I didn't know about and we had a friend who was there and she knew about them and she went over to him and got him to tell her where they were and so he had bought each girl a set of diamond earrings, and he bought me a pearl earrings and a pearl necklace and so you know course, I lost it because the prognosis they gave was 3 to 6 months, and so this was in December and they did have some experimental things they could do, but it might just prolong it a few months and Murray said I don't want to be a guinea pig and so he was home and we had Christmas and then we normally had New Year's Eve with a certain group of friends every 46 or seven years, so instead we usually went to somebody else's house, but because of his condition. They all came to my house. I didn't have to cook. They cooked and everything and he stayed in the bedroom and and we had our cello. If you call it celebration. We were together. Let's put it that way and and he died January 9, so really quick even come close to 3090. Not all not at all, and there was a time when I asked him if he wanted to go back to go to the hospital and he's like no and I said okay that we won't, we won't go back and there were some times I was because I'm a nurse. I was giving him antiseizure medicine IV every eight hours, and because it was Christmas. We couldn't get people in to help. So it was me, my mother-in-law came and stayed with me my friend was staying with me because she was inference school and kept the girls in preschool and things until the Christmas holiday and just did what we needed to do and I actually had a home health aide four days before he died and I was just for half a day each day and then and then he died. So it just, I mean it's fortunate, I'm a nurse so I could I could do everything. I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't had the ability to do. I guess he would state hospital or something, but he was able to be home. That's what he wanted the girls because they were so little when he was at Duke after he got out of intensive care. He was on a ward and you know they were too little to go CM and I, through fit and said calls Dr. my kids are Huckabee depression 13 I had and they allowed them to go straight and see him and go back but I just couldn't stand the thought. So I think of the people who have COBIT and can't be with their loved ones and I was like I just don't know how you're doing it so so the immediate aftermath right after he died, walked me through those emotions as numbness for a while is it immediate devastation how to develop oil for me because he got sick in December and there were so many things going on. I was in the mode okay because he had his own business. If you work there was no money, I worked part-time so I did not call in sick, which I had every right to do but I did not because I knew there was no money coming in, so I kept working my mother-in-law would watch the kids and watch him when I was at work and I actually picked up a few extra shifts to bring in a little bit of extra money so I was so focused on keeping the girls life as structured as possible and not throw one them off and trying to deal with. How do I prepare them for the fact that their dad might not be here and those kind of things and that just kept me busy so when he actually died. I ran to get his mom so she could come down and I remember meeting Elizabeth in the hallway and I just resent daddy just died and she wanted to go in. So you know we went in anyway that was hard. So what was really nice is that Elizabeth kindergarten teacher and Emily's preschool teacher both came to our house and spent time with them one-on-one.
While everything has to happen. You notified this person you know just all the stuff that has to happen and then I had to go to the funeral home to make the arrangements for the funeral and I went by myself and when I was driving remembers crossing over broad Street at the railroad tracks like Pettigrew them, Broad Street and I had my first ever only panic attack and I was hyperventilating and my heart was racing and I was just like what am I going to do and this must be panic attack suck, took some deep breaths and pulled myself together and went and took care of everything I needed to take care of and then you know people started, and food started, and that kind of thing so we got through the funeral and then after that, you know it's, like everyone else's life goes back to normal, but yours never does, and it was just, this is kind of interesting.
How did the girls process as they were six and 4 1/2 of the top right. How do they process how did you help them process early.
Well, right before he died, like a night or two before he died. We had our youth minister and our pastor come over to, talk to them about death and we County used a glove analogy like wearing the glove. This looks like you know a person and stuff but when somebody dies and goes to heaven.
You see the bodies take took the glove off. You know it's like that's the body but really the person goes on up to heaven to be with Jesus. And so that's kind how he explained it, and I think Elizabeth got it. I'm not so sure Emily did at that time because she so little because every time she'd hear the garage open. She drawn to the door and say daddy and then we have say no honey you know he's not here so I was.
She had kind of hard time with that.
So how did all the financial pieces workout dealing with life insurance and disclosing his business. Oh yeah, all of it it it was very hectic and I think that's what kept me going in some ways in together and that I felt like I couldn't fall apart not only for the girls, but there were just so many things that had to be done.
You had to file for the life insurance policies you had have all these death certificates that you had to get every single person that you were wanting to close something out. You always tell people when you're close to you state got like eight or 10 cop yes yes yes yes yes I think they give you three at the funeral home.
Something like that.
You need more so doing all that I am because you know I worked part time so I didn't have you know I had a small little teeny tiny check and he wasn't working anymore so it was no more income coming but yet he had an accountant so I went to the accountant. The accountant help me do what needed to be done with the estimated taxes and everything that needed to be done for the business to to close it out and then I remember it was.
I've was really fortunate that there was someone from my church to gave me some money that actually helped me get through until the life insurance came in and the Social Security could come in because the girls got Social Security on his record. And so that got me through until then, so it was like okay how my going to pay for the house, how my going to keep them in school how my gonna you know just keep things going on what the life insurance paid off the car. It did not pay off the house and I decided not to put the money toward the house that I wanted a pot of money that I could kinda draw from if I needed it, but try not to use it for normal income. I did not pick up any more hours. I kept my same schedule. My goal was to keep the girls lives as normal as possible since their whole world had turned upside down so I didn't start working full time right away a step Part-time. I kept them in school and I I'm good pretty good at at pinching pennies because you know I was college student with not much money. So I should know that you're stupid of that, several years later yes I still can Becky later you still have this good I can still pinch a penny Reese was the spender and I was the saver and so we didn't have a lot of money saved up with the life insurance that we did get which that's the other thing when you're young it's never enough.
You know, so we hadn't really gotten as much as we know I said it didn't pay off the house but I figured it out. I looked at what was coming. Social Security what my income was in my income pretty much went down 70% from four to after and so I just had to be real careful. There were some weeks I got paid every other week that after I paid my bills. I had $20 to last me two weeks and I found out waste. You know you can go to McDonald's at that time and get to cheeseburgers and supersized and get a big Coke and a big thing of French fries, and it would feed all three of us and do that a lot, but sometimes for a treat.
That's the kind of thing and I'd look for free things to do with the kids or two for the price of one types of things and we went to the beach with the people from the church. We got a big house, so we were able to take each trip once in a while and and it would be interesting to see their aspect.
You know for my kids standpoint, what kind of childhood did they have did they consider it more. More really, you know, I tried to do is much as I could but I couldn't do everything that everybody else did. But I did it within the budget that I had to maintain that status of only working part-time for how long, and see he got a 93 until 98 or five years so they were both well ensconced in school yesterday were like Emily, I think, was third grade and Elizabeth was fifth grade and toward the end of the school year before I went full time because being a nurse, I couldn't do full time and rotate shifts. I would've had to get a nanny or someone to live in because the way it was. I worked every other weekend and I had a lot of good friends from church and sometimes my mother-in-law sometimes my mom sometimes my brother and I would take them somewhere every other weekend and pack them up two days and I'd work to 12 hour shifts on the weekend and then pick them up at the end unit when I was finished and so I didn't have to pay a lot of childcare, but if I was working full time. That had to do the aftercare school or if it was rotating shifts whose go stay with them at night. It was just a logistics nightmare so I That until I can get a straight day job and so I got a job in primary care and was Monday through Friday and they were old enough then that I felt like it wouldn't disrupt their lives as much and they were getting toward the stage of you don't have to go on this field trip mom so that was okay. Why know the funding positive male influence whose life was a big important thing to you.
Where did you find those people and rude people, but role well in some ways it were that of the couples that kept the kids when I was at work. I looked for couples ahead.
From what I could tell strong marriages and had kids around their age that they have someone to play with, and so they got the view of you know, family life from a mom and a dad and so they had that then the other big thing was sports and they both kind of were athletic so I put them in soccer and basketball and softball, swimming and most of those teams, especially the soccer teams had mail coaches and so through that they had interactions with men, and then Marise has two brothers and I have a brother and so we would spend time in they would have time with them so they would get the male influence away, but they both seem to have agreement to be very well-adjusted ice far as I know they are literally live in far-flung places yes I know they got his foot well one of them got as far away from me as he possibly could.
Because New Zealand I don't think there's any places farther away but most good very definition of the others of your yes yes hemispheres and everything that yeah know they've done quite well and I've been very very proud of them and how they've handled everything I tried to all the other thing I did was we went to a hospice program kids after Marise died and they had some special things for children who just lost parents, and so we did that for little while and I looked for a therapist. You do just that. We could go to just to see we know like a checkup and see how things were going side did that and just kind of watched them from a nursing standpoint as well as a mom's standpoint to see if I saw any signs that maybe something wasn't going well and I didn't take them again, but I would have in a heartbeat if I thought they needed something so let's suppose you're talking to a young mom. She just lost her husband, one of the things that you would tell her you must do this.
I'm really glad that I did this or I wish I had done this, but Stu Epperson will talk about but don't think so. One of the things we say.
Be sure you do this, or take care of this. Talk to this person.
Be sure that while I did have an attorney yet for the wills and stop and talk to him and one of the advice he gave me.
He's like you can do this because the estate process through the government, you know that you have to do to close out the estate. There certain steps that have to be done, you can hire an attorney to do this for you, but you pay, you know for that service but you can do it yourself. I went to the clerk of court unit.
They told me what needed to be done and what the deadlines were. You have to have an inventory. I think it 30 days and then again six months.
I can't remember the exact timeframe. You have to put notices in the paper to. So if somebody has a crack a bill against the estate that they can file that there's several things like that.
They just have to be done. Plus, you know, filing for all the life insurance and in all that I did it so don't don't pay me, just do it yourself right right. I was fortunate to have people like at the funeral home and in different places, like you need your money for your children to raise your children and so they didn't try to take advantage of me and I really do appreciate that. So the one thing to know is you can do it and you know everyone's financial situation is different, but in mine it was much better for me to do it and have that money to use later. Then to pay someone else and that made have to force myself to go back to work full-time before I was ready or the kids were ready.
What about just in terms of like restarting your life, what would you what advice would you. My advice is to if you can't just wait a year before you do anything any big major life decisions. I mean I was thinking do I move you know because my house that mortgage at that time was hefty. It took over half of my income you're still in the house now.
I'm still in the house now and it's paid off. So anyway, but I had to twist your arm to do it just for money and I finally did, and he was right. I was so anyway, I'll admit it but anyway so don't make any major changes and think there are some not so nice people out there. I think they read the obituaries and they read the ages and they thanked blue.
These people are going to get life insurance because I had all these calls were in your area and were doing expections on such and such and such and alike under the house.
They said all you need a sump pump and you need this and you need that to be. This is about 3500 or whatever it was, and you know I like oh my gosh, my house is going of the foundations going to crumble.
I need to do something and I did have the foresight to call someone who was contractor referendum on sick and you just come and check Annie's like you don't need any you're okay and so there would have been all that money out the door for something I really didn't need and then I got this other call that I had one all these prizes and only need to send $300 for the taxes or the water ever water water what and I said I can't talk to you now can you call me back tomorrow and so they said yes and I called the Better Business Bureau and found out that were lots of complaints and this and that and the other and so when they call back. I said, you should be ashamed of yourself calling people like that you know and then they hung up on me.
But yeah, so you're more vulnerable than you know.
At that time you really truly are because you know I was yeah I was not as strong as I thought maybe I would be in some of those cases, so the big thing is don't make major financial decisions right away. Don't you note it, sometimes maybe you can help. You have to, but it's like if there's a way to buy yourself a day a week or something to think it through. Go to well respected friends and have it bounce ideas off of different people because sometimes you are thinking correctly and I don't know that I had a date for wow I think maybe six months to a year afterwords and it was only because it was somebody that I had known before, and was comfortable with that wasn't you know and course day. There was no tenderness or whatever you call those dating sites that wasn't that.
Let's also refer to whatever you go yeah what is our I guess you could do paperback then you put the lads in papers or something but I didn't do any of that. You know I was busy and often that wasn't something for me that was in need.
So you know I was fine, but just be careful. Just be careful and have a trusted friend that you know will tell you the truth. Is there anything you would back on new window learn from my mistake.
I wish I had done this differently there's anything that would help you emotionally or something with the girls. I think if I had one thing that probably didn't do right or as well as I could have is that I think I'd stayed too strong for the girls. I tried not to cry in front of them or you know and and that probably wasn't good.
You know they probably needed to see that mommy was upset and mommy was sad, but right after I thought if I start crying.
I'll never stop and so I kinda walled myself off and was like a robot going through the motions to get everything done and I think it was somewhere between six weeks to six months before I ever fell apart and I think it was I can't remember him watching a movie or something and it got me. I just went crazy. You know by. I probably needed to balance that a little bit better thanks to Kathy for sharing her story and my hope is that it can be helpful to hear for anybody not just a new window but anybody who's doing with grief or just find themselves in a difficult spot in life. One other thing that I think is important, but you may have noticed is how she referenced her friends to help take care of the girls over the years, which allowed her to work the hours she needs to work to make and meet for the family you notice. Keep that in mind with any single parents that you're friends with and it doesn't have to be somebody who spouse died just anybody who happens to be a single parent. For whatever reason, more often than not, probably not going to ask for your help. But any help you can give them is really going to make a big difference for them.
So just out of the blue offer to take the kids some time so they can get stuff done maybe to celebrate. If your family is intact to invite their family over your house so the kids can see and experience with a strong family dynamic. Looks like proactive about offer to help without them asking for it because you're probably not going to ask. Thanks for tuning in on this week's episode and will talk with you again real soon.
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