I met Sis Irene briefly over a year ago in Pretoria. I was presenting at a Women’s day function. We exchanged numbers and she called me this year asking me to help her structure and invest her package as she was taking voluntary retrenchment. As I walked into the boardroom, she shared with me her whole story. She has given me permission to share her story and use her real name as it is a story that she shares openly with others. Her hope is that we will all learn from her and hopefully there will be fewer women who will go through the same pain she went through. With August being Women’s month, I thought I should share her story with you. Please note that this story is a real story and contains a painful message. If you are sensitive, do not read any further.
Irene got married to the love of her life when she was 20 years old. They had 2 beautiful children together, a boy and a girl. They were married for over 27 years when he passed on. As we sat down to start our meeting, Irene shared with me the following:
I trusted my husband completely, I had no reason not to. We had our ups and downs as some married people do at times, but I knew in my heart he cared for us. I can still remember that fateful day, it was early evening on a Sunday, 12th of December 2010. We heard the gun shots and after a while, we went outside. People were gathered under the electric pole, about 200 meters from our home. Some young men in the neighbourhood came to chat with me. Looking back, I think they were stopping me from going to look who had been shot. My daughter, who had also gone to look, came back screaming. Papa has been murdered, Papa has been murdered! It was then that I realised that it was my husband that was lying dead under the electric pole. They shot him in the mouth and the bullet went through his head. My daughter says his brains were all over the place. I cannot remember much of that painful evening. Nothing was stolen so whoever shot him wanted him dead. The investigation was opened and the police have just informed me that they are closing the docket as they cannot find out who the killers were. In a way, I am glad I don’t know who did this to him as I don’t know what I would do if I found out. I am giving it all to God, it has been too painful
I went knocking from one insurance company to the next, no one could help. My husband had lapsed his policies. One of the policies lapsed just 3 months before he passed on. I had also taken out a policy on his life but the insurance company would not pay out. Because he was murdered, they were awaiting the outcome of the police investigation before they could pay me. So here I was, with a policy, but I didn’t have enough money to bury my own husband. My troubles were just beginning. I received a call from the bank. Now that my husband was late and he had no life cover, I had to re-apply for the bond. At first, my application was declined – I almost lost my home. We had lost my husband and father to my children, we were still grieving and finding it hard to come to terms with his painful death now we were about to lose our home as well. Without his income, it was difficult for me to qualify for the bond as I was now responsible for all expenses. The most painful part of losing a husband and finding yourself without money is that no one wants to help you. I felt all alone. People I thought would help were not there for me. I felt judged. I told God it was enough, how much more pain was I supposed to endure? I applied again and my application was miraculously accepted. We still live in our home to date. It was very difficult to pay for the bond but I did the best I could to keep up with the repayments. My insurance company finally paid a year after his death. I used that money to pay for my son’s university fees.
Phume, please tell women to look after their money; Sis Irene said to me. I can never understand why my husband lapsed his policies. The insurance companies would have delayed paying out but at least they would have paid in the end. So here I am at my age, I am still paying for a home. I am glad my son has finally finished his degree so that is less expense for me to worry about. I feel pain when I think of the fact that if I had died before my husband, he would not have been in the position I am in today because I never lapse my policies. My policies would pay out and he would settle all our debts and still have enough money to take care of our children and other necessities. My message to women out there is please, please make sure that you get confirmation that your husband is paying his policies every month. If he is not good with money, you are better off taking over the payment of the policies. The passing on of a husband is very painful. You don’t want to add financial strain to an already painful situation. Now when I look at women who lose their husbands and then start drinking heavily, I can understand and sympathise. I still don’t know how I would have coped if I had not trusted God completely. I would cry myself to sleep at night as I didn’t know if we would still have our home.
I walked out of the boardroom with a lump in my throat. I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t say anything. I phoned Sis Irene a week ago and asked her if she would mind if I share her story and she said no, she would be glad if I did. I hope that man and woman reading this story will draw lessons from it. Taking a life policy and keeping up the premium payments is an expression of love to your family and dependents. No one knows the day or the hour so we cannot take chances with a life policy. I hope we all learn from Sis Irene’s experience.
Sis Irene, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing so openly. I also learnt a few things from your story e.g. I didn’t know that life policies do not pay if someone is murdered or they delay the payment of the life cover. I will be posing the question to the insurance companies / Ombudsman to explain themselves because personally, I feel that it is prejudicial to the family. South Africa has a high rate of murder and it is true that the family might be involved at times but it is also unfair to allow families of murder victims to suffer financial strain because their loved one was murdered. At the very least, they should pay a percentage of the proceeds of the life cover to allow for a decent burial and there should be a time limit set when the full policy should pay out as we all know that police investigations can last for a very long time.
Irene has just taken a voluntary early retirement package from Telkom. She has invested most of her money so she will receive a monthly income when she turns 55 years old.
Phumelele is now a Financial Advisor. If you need a financial advisor, you can contact her office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 011 781 3351 or 063 034 2532.
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