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For the sake of life

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Experiencing the death of a loved one is tough at any age. But especially for children.

Norman was just seven years old when his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He wasn’t allowed in her hospital room, only in the courtyard outside, below her window. Every once in a while he’d see his mother press her face against the glass and wave. She died in that room, with her son waiting for her in the courtyard.

That is the only memory Norman has of his mother. That is the most heartbreaking part of this whole story. No memories of his mother packing his school lunches or being there for his t-ball games or Saturday night dates.

No memory of his mother sitting in the stands, watching him break 17 school records for football at the University of Maryland. No memory of his mother cheering for him when he was selected in the second round of the 1984 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. No memory of him becoming one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history, of him marrying, of him having children of his own.

Norman “Boomer” Esiason doesn’t dwell on this. In fact, he points to this experience as making him who he is today, having the strong relationships he does with his older sisters, his late father and his own family. It also made him a staunch advocate for life insurance (his mother had none).

Now, Boomer is the spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month each September. Working with Life Happens, a life insurance awareness organization, he preaches the benefits of life insurance to agents and consumers across the country. He preached them to me over the phone recently.

“For me, it was simply my own life and my own experiences in life and how adversely affected I was when I was a young child that we did not have the life insurance we needed,” Boomer said. “So for me, as an adult now, I think back to that and I think, if that ever happened to my kids, I can’t even imagine what the situation would be.”

That’s why one of the first things Boomer did when he was drafted by the Bengals was buy a single premium life insurance policy. And he’s kept a close eye on his insurance since then. “My policies basically grow with my estate and with what I believe my future responsibilities are,” Boomer said. And he may have more financial responsibilities than the average family.

Boomer’s son, Gunnar, was born with cystic fibrosis. Though he beat the odds (the life expectancy when he was born was 18), the 22-year-old Boston College graduate is not done fighting. And neither is his dad. The family runs the Boomer Esiason Foundation to help find a cure for CF and Boomer makes sure Gunnar is safe, with or without him. “I also own what we coin as a ‘medical life insurance policy,’ meaning that if I do die, there will be money there for my son to be able to take care of himself if in fact there is no medical insurance in his life for whatever reason,” he said. “That’s the message that I bring. It’s about your responsibility to make sure the people that you love, if something tragic happens, they don’t ever have to change their way of living. “

Boomer’s message: Get life insurance for your family any way you can, even if it’s through former NFL’er Fran Tarkenton, who now owns his own financial firm that sells life insurance. So would Boomer Esiason ever buy life insurance from him? “Well I’m a very big fan of Fran Tarkenton and he’s a very bright guy – and maybe one of the smartest to come out of the NFL,” he said. “And the fact that he’s actually doing that, yeah I would buy from him but just don’t tell him that. I’m already fulfilled!”

If only more people could say that.