Columbia, MO, 11 February 2016 | 07:00 AM America/Chicago A Valuable Lesson Our parents teach us many lessons as we grow and become adults. They are there to catch us when we stumble and help us back up again. Sometimes there are lessons that are never taught. It’s then left to us to learn those lessons and share them with our own families. Topher’s story I was a freshmen at the University of Missouri and the first in my family to attend college. Everything was going as planned. Even though my best friend, my mom, was 400 miles away, we couldn’t be any closer. She was my mentor and a true companion. A Tough but Valuable Lesson Then it all changed when I got that call. My mom was traveling to see me for Parent’s Weekend but suffered a heart attack on the way. Later that night she passed away. The days, weeks, and months after proved to be the hardest of my life. In addition to the extreme emotional, intellectual and physical pain that comes with the loss of a parent, I was caught in a very difficult financial situation. She didn’t have life insurance. I was forced to move out of my college dorm room and get a job that offered housing and a meal plan, as well as a job serving tables to pay for school expenses and bills. I worked 50+ hours a week while attending school full time. Now I was worried whether I would be able to afford school next year. Passing along what I have learned This experience has changed me in ways that I can’t even explain. But it has taught me the importance of planning for my financial future. Life Insurance would have eased the transition to a life without my mother. This is a lesson I will be sure to share with those around me, especially my own family as I plan for my future. Life Lessons The emotional strain of a parent’s death can be devastating to children and young adults. And for too many families, an untimely death also brings financial stress, making recovery all the more difficult. Life Happens sponsors the annual Life Lessons Scholarship Program for college students and college-bound high school seniors. Qualified entrants who submit essays or videos about how the death of a parent impacted their lives are eligible for scholarship money. Last year, Topher Otake received a Life Lessons Scholarship sponsored by State Farm. The $12,500 scholarship has given him the financial support to focus on his studies. He is a junior in college now, pursuing a degree in Music Education. He hopes to become a teacher after graduation. For more information or to apply for a scholarship, please click here.