On May 17, 2021, my dad unexpectedly passed away due to a massive heart attack. There was a knock on the door that morning from the Sheriff, letting us know that my dad had been found unresponsive and to call Mission Hospital. We immediately got in the car as my mom made that call. That is when we all heard the ER doctor say the words that will stay with me for the rest of my life, “I’m sorry to tell you this over the phone, but James Cruz has passed at 11:49 a.m., we did everything we could before calling his death”. It was, and continues to be, the hardest thing that I have ever encountered. I was 16, on the varsity basketball team and in the blink of an eye, I became an adult. My life changed forever. All my dreams of playing basketball and going to college became small. I quit the varsity team and left school to attend a school closer to home because I saw the financial burden that my mom endured to make that drive every day. I saw the pain in her eyes, and I heard the late-night cries. Not wanting to burden her anymore, I kept my cries to myself.
My parents did not have life insurance. My dad was self-employed and worked as a carpenter to support my family. Even though my mom worked, the day after my dad’s funeral, she broke her lower leg and was unable to go back to work. Not too long after that, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. My uncle picked up extra shifts to help support our family financially. One year and one-month after my dad’s passing, my uncle, passed as well. The thought of leaving for college was slipping through my fingers again. I knew I couldn’t leave now.
Having life-insurance would have made things different for my mom, my siblings’, and I. It would have helped pay off the mortgage, medical bills, and add to college funds, among other things. I also can’t help to think that maybe my uncle would still be here if he didn’t overwork himself or that my mom wouldn’t be in and out of the hospital from anxiety attacks she experiences with all the stress about how she will pay bills.
I still applied to college and was accepted to California Baptist University as a Mechanical Engineering major and with a minor in Christian Studies. Even though this is an exciting time for me, it also weighs me down finically. This scholarship would not just be for me, but for my family as well and everyone else that has impacted my life as I will be the first to attend college. I hope to be an inspiration for my family and generations to come. I want to increase my knowledge and to be able to learn new skills and broaden my life experiences. I pray that I’ll be the man that my dad was to me.