Sense & Sensibility
Roof Repair Leads to Serious Wake-Up Fall
March 23, 2009
By Kathleen Felong
My brother fell off the roof this past winter. Luckily, he lives in a part of the country prone to heavy snowfall and large life-saving snow banks. The only things he bruised were his hip, his pride and his wife’s confidence that he can be trusted to be safe rather than sorry.
But it could have been worse. Much worse.
He had gone up to secure the satellite dish. He had a neighbor buddy helping on the ground. “It occurred to me once I was up there that this was not a good idea,” he told me later. That’s when the ladder slipped on the icy ground and took him on a slow-mo ride back to earth.
At the same moment, as luck would have it, one of his kids was walking outside with the cordless phone.
“Yes, Mom,” said his son. “Daddy’s right here. He just fell off the roof.”
When things like that happen in our family, we don’t know whether to laugh, cry or utter another prayer of thanks. Impatience is emblazoned on our family crest—Dad’s side. We have, therefore, a legacy of ill-considered home maintenance maneuvers. The attempted repair of the garbage disposal just before Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind. So does the change of the overhead fan without regard for the glass table beneath it.
And at least one—make that two—of my three brothers have carried on the mantel of “act now, think later.”
But this time, the results could have been tragic. My brother has three children—and a fourth on the way. That’s probably why his voice was still a little shaken when he relayed the incident to me later.
We live with risk all around us. We get so comfortable with it that we often forget that any of us are just a decision, a step, a diagnosis away from loss.
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Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch had an appreciation for the tenuousness of life. He’s the man who created a poignant Internet stir for “The Last Lecture.” It was the videotaped lecture he delivered to students on what life had taught him. The timing of the lecture came as he faced a dire prognosis of pancreatic cancer and separation from his wife and children.
Last September, weeks after Pausch succumbed to his illness, he offered another lesson, writing in O magazine:
“The one thing I wish we’d all think about right now—and forgive me for being mundane—is this: If you have kids, review your life insurance, because most people don’t carry enough.”
And most people don’t think about it except when the risk comes too close, when unsafe becomes sorry—or when it’s too late for someone they love.
Kathy Felong is an award-winning columnist and editor at Erie Insurance.