Calgary-area widow urges others to get life insurance after husband's sudden death

Seema Minhas-Randhawa cannot work consistently because of health issues which include three slipped discs, major back surgery and multiple hospital visits. So Harpreet, her partner of three years, was the sole income earner.

'We always said next week, next month we will get it done'

Widow left with mountain of bills and no income 0:29

"Yesterday was hard, I was dreading midnight."

Seema Minhas-Randhawa and her daughter were not looking forward to their first New Year's Eve without husband and stepfather Harpreet.

"He was all about celebrating. He was all about being together on the occasion, hugging and kissing," Minhas-Randhawa told CBC News on Sunday from her home in Chestermere just east of Calgary.

"He was more of a family man than anything. He would prefer being home."

Harpreet Randhawa died suddenly Dec.13, one day after two important birthdays — Minhas-Randhawa turned 30 and her daughter Anjali turned seven.

Minhas-Randhawa cannot work consistently because of health issues — three slipped discs, major back surgery and multiple hospital visits. So Harpreet, her partner of three years, was the sole income earner.

Harpreet Randhawa died suddenly on Dec. 13. The autopsy didn't reveal a cause of death, his widow says. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Today, she's urging people to do what she and her husband failed to do in time: consider getting life insurance.

"We always said next week, next month we will get it done," Minhas-Randhawa said.

"Don't wait. You just never know. We were so focused on me because I had the health issues but we never would have thought in a million years that [Harpreet] could be gone because he is the healthy one. But he is gone now. This could happen to anybody."

She says Harpreet, who was known to his friends as "Happy" or "Hap," was an incredible provider, at times working two jobs so she could stay at home with her daughter.

"By April 2015 I was paralyzed for three or four months. My legs stopped working. He literally took care of me. Carried me, took me to the washroom. He was my angel. As he was taking care of me he was being mom and dad to Anjali and just doing it with flying colours."

On Dec. 13, Minhas-Randhawa had returned home at about 5:30 p.m. after dropping her daughter off at her grandparent's house for an overnight visit. She assumed Harpreet was somewhere in the house taking a nap before heading to work at 7:30 p.m.

'OK babe, joke's over, get up'

"I checked everywhere," she recalled.

"Then I see him lying in the back corner [of the basement]. I thought he was joking because he is that type of guy. I said, 'OK babe, joke's over, get up.'"

But it wasn't a joke.

"When I went to touch him, I noticed his hand was already discoloured, his arm was cold and I am trying to wake him up."

She called the paramedics and while they arrived in about three minutes, she says it was too late.

Minhas-Randhawa says the autopsy didn't explain why Harpreet died and a more detailed examination could take six to eight months.

'I had no idea what accounts we had'

She says Harpreet took care of the finances.

"He dealt with everything," Minhas-Randhawa said.

"I had no idea what accounts we had, I had nothing. Luckily our bank knows us so they were very helpful.

"For some reason we didn't have mortgage insurance. We didn't have life insurance, which we were working on but we were thinking, 'Oh, we will do it next month.'"

Now she's left without an income and bills piling up.

That's where Chris Powell, a close friend and former co-worker of Harpreet's, hopes to help.

Family friend Chris Powell says Minhas-Randhawa and her 7-year-old daughter should not have to go through this pain alone. He's set up an online fundraising campaign to ease the financial burden for the family. (Kate Adach/CBC)

He's set up a fundraising campaign for Minhas-Randhawa and her daughter to take some of the pressure off.

"There is no reason why he died," Powell said.

"There is nothing to blame. He was a healthy guy. He was a great guy, he had a heart of gold. I loved that guy. There is so much going on. This little girl now has to grow up without a dad. I just don't want [Minhas-Randhawa] and her daughter to go through all of that pain alone."

Meanwhile, Minhas-Randhawa says some sort of insurance could have given her more time to grieve rather than stress about her financial situation.

Harpreet Randhawa died Dec. 13, just one day after the birthdays of his wife and stepdaughter. (Kate Adach/CBC)

"It's morbid to think of the worst case scenario, your spouse being gone, nobody wants that but you really have to put things into perspective and say, this can actually happen," she said.

"If a husband is gone or a wife is gone, what is going to happen, especially in a situation like mine where one person is working and the other is not and now you have nothing to fall back on? You have to start all over."

She hopes others can learn from her situation.

"Get it done. Learn from our mistakes and get it done because you just never know."

With files from Kate Adach