In the span of a few short years, the entire landscape of Tyler Leifeste’s life changed. When he was just 12, his father, Sam, died after routine surgery. Tyler mourned the loss not only of his father, but of his best friend and mentor. Sam did have some life insurance, which his wife, Nina, says helped her in the short term, but she admits it didn’t begin to replace the income Sam would have brought home as a dentist over the longer term.
Within a year of Sam’s death, Nina discovered she had a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Throughout his mother’s two-year battle with the disease, Tyler remembers being plagued by the uncertainty of the future. For Nina, it was a day-to-day struggle to work and “carry on with business as usual,” while undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Tyler says that he was old enough to realize that things were tougher on his mom than she ever let on, and that she continued to work while ill so she could provide for Tyler and his sister, Samantha.
Then, a cruel twist of fate in the form of a natural disaster altered the Leifeste’s lives again. Hurricane Ike plowed through their hometown of Bridge City, Texas, destroying their house and all their possessions.
Through it all, Tyler has drawn on the strength of his parents—his mom’s hard work and perseverance and his dad’s advice. He remembers his dad saying, “Life can either make you bitter or better. Me? I chose to be better.” Tyler has chosen to “be a better man because of the obstacles that my family has overcome.” That includes attending a nearby college, with the help of scholarship money, to become a minister.
And the lesson of life insurance is not far away, either. “Because of what I have watched my mother endure, I plan to purchase life insurance to protect my family in the event of a tragic loss,” he says.
You can help students like Tyler make their dream of a college education come true by donating to the nonprofit Life Lessons Scholarship fund. Donate here.