This is the story of one man - who once had a vast amount of wealth, a very lovely family, and a perfectly comfortable life - who gradually lost nearly everything in his life that he had cherished deeply during the Great Recession. It is a anonymous account written by of one of his neighbors that describes the events that occur that would lead him to a state of extreme depression, cause him to question his own personal beliefs, and force him to choose a path that will determine what will happen to him in his future...

Broken Faith

By Anthony J. Piccione

For much of his life, Ed Walker seemed to have it all. At 45 years of age, he had been married for 22 years to his college sweetheart - Lilly. He had three kids: one 18 year old son named Michael, one 15 year old daughter named Lauren, and one 10 year old son named Alex. They were a staunchly Catholic family, and regularly attended church every week. Ed was enormously wealthy and owned a very large, expensive home. His massive wealth was the result of the massive investments his family had made several years ago in several businesses that are now among the most successful in the nation. It is likely that Ed’s father had no idea just how much his investments would pay off once these companies became so successful. Ed would inherit a large portion of his father’s wealth as soon as he had passed away. To those of us who saw Ed and his family in our neighborhood, we seemed to believe that he had the perfect life. We envied him. His life was the kind of life we all wanted to have, but knew we would never come close too.

That was what we believed until September 2008, when the idea that nothing could possibly go wrong for Ed and his family was diminished. As those of us who lived through those days remember clearly, the 2008 financial collapse – and the Great Recession that followed - was a major turning point for all of our country. It was a turning point that would result in the decline of the vast wealth that so many of our luckiest neighbors had possessed. Unfortunately for Ed Walker, he and his family were no exception. When the stock market crashed that year, much of the Walkers’ savings were completely wiped out. Every last dime they had invested – the same investments that made them the wealthiest family in our town – was gone. Despite living the American dream for so many years without us ever knowing, it turns out that Ed Walker and his family were not immune the damage that was caused by the Great Recession.Now, they were about to experience financial challenges that they had never known until now.

It seemed as if these challenges couldn’t have possibly hit Ed and his family at a worse time. From what many of us had heard recently, the Walker kids had been going through a difficult time around the same time as the financial collapse. Lauren had failed most of her classes last semester, and Alex was apparently being bullied by his classmates. But even that was hardly as devastating as the news Ed had received recently about Michael, his oldest child: He had gotten a call from the police department – sometime in late August - stating that he had been arrested for the possession of large amounts of cocaine. All of us who were his neighbors could tell just how devastated he was by his son’s arrest, as he had the look of shock on his face even when he was just going outside to get the mail. But who could blame him? He had now been looking at the very real possibility of his own son being behind bars for a fairly long time. And even aside from the troubles his kids were facing, his wife had already been having some issues that had been kept very private.

At the time of the financial collapse, the Walker family had also been concerned about Lilly’s health in recent months, and had been waiting to hear back from their doctor to find out whether he would give her the diagnosis that none of us ever want to hear: cancer. It was hard to imagine for all of them – as well as all of us who were familiar with the family’s affairs - that someone as relatively young as her could possibly be diagnosed with such a terrible illness. That only made it more shocking when Ed found out from the doctor that his wife had a malignant brain tumor, and that she had – at the most - about six months left to live. Just as few of us could have possibly imagined just how luxurious their family’s life must have been before the recession, few of us could possibly imagine the impact this would have on their lives. Few of us could possibly imagine how devastating losing his beloved wife of 22 years would be to Ed, not to mention how devastating it would be for the kids to lose their much beloved mother.

We would expect Ed to be devastated by so many terrible events all going on at once in his life. But despite how many things had just happened, it still was shocking when we saw Ed looking like such a mess whenever we saw him now. I couldn’t blame him. It looked as if this Ed’s life was just falling apart. Now that they had lost all of their money, the Walker family had been desperately looking for ways to not just pay for Lilly’s cancer treatments, but also to pay off their debts from the past. Up until these events had occurred, very few of us had learned of the outstanding amounts of debt that Ed and Lilly Walker held and had been paying off for years. The financial crash – and the recession that followed – may have had the biggest impact on those of us with less money. But the Walker family had been one of the few families that were among our wealthiest citizens – the 1%, as some referred to them as – that happened to be very unlucky, and lost everything during the crisis. Their entire fortune – as well as their sense of financial security – was gone.

Ed and Lilly were working harder than ever to try and keep up with their debt payments. But eventually, there was not enough money to pay their debts. The consequence was eventually losing the lovely, expensive home that they owned for so many years. They lost it so quickly after having just a taste of the financial struggles that the rest of us in their neighborhood had already become used to. So quickly after Ed had lost the entire fortune that he and his father had made over the years. So quickly after Michael’s arrest. So quickly after Lilly learning of her terminal illness. It was clear to anyone who was observing these events: After years of living the good life, the Walker family had finally hit rock bottom.

From what we had heard, Ed’s mother was willing to allow the family to stay with her, as Ed and Lilly were now homeless. That was where they had stayed for months, as Ed and Lilly tried to get their family – and their finances – back in order, so that maybe they could climb their way back up toward the top once the recession was over. Just as it was no surprise that their financial troubles were increasing their stress levels, it also came as no surprise to hear how those stresses had an impact on Lilly’s already declining health. She had insisted to Ed that she did not want to go through more chemotherapy; both due to the cost of the treatment, but also because of her unwillingness to spend her last days confined to a hospital bed – a wish that she made well-known to her friends years before her diagnosis. However, those who saw Lilly during her last days saw how each passing day saw her feel more and more pain. It wasn’t until one morning, when Ed woke up to find Lilly lying next to him – completely still. She would not move, was not breathing, and would not respond to anything Ed said to her. Shortly after the ambulance had arrived, she was declared dead. The last thing in Ed’s life that he had loved more than anything else - with the exception of his two children who weren’t in police custody – was gone forever. It was the last step toward driving Ed into extreme depression that he – nor anyone else in his family – had felt before.

For the first time in his life, it seemed as if Ed Walker had barely anything left to lose. It seemed that Ed had become a broken man as a result of these events over the past few months. He was such a complete mess, his mother and kids were even starting to question whether he was starting to lose his faith is God. Anyone who knew Ed knew that he was a devout member of the Catholic Church who was deeply thankful for the wonderful life God had given him. But while his mother and kids continued to attend church regularly, Ed himself began to attend far less frequently than ever before. To his closest friends, that seemed very unusual of him. When they asked Ed’s mother about him, she told them that he was not doing well. She recalled that he was devastated by Lilly’s death and Michael’s legal troubles, was losing faith in his life and future, and even questioning whether there was a God worthy of enormous praise. He had been wondering how God could exist while allowing his life to deteriorate, and also not be a force of evil. If everything she said is true, than it only shows just how much Ed’s emotional state had been crushed.

Then, it reached that fateful day when we would realize just how much Ed Walker had fallen from his former life of comfort and wealth. That fateful night, several people like me were out enjoying what we expected to be a quiet, peaceful evening. Later, we looked up toward the bridge that was up above the nearby river. We saw someone standing over the edge of the bridge, as if he was about to jump off. A crowd started to gather, and we saw that the person about to jump was Ed. He looked far more distraught and overwhelmed than anyone in his neighborhood had ever seen him before. He took a look away from the river he was on the verge of falling toward, and over to the large crowd that had formed. Some people in the crowd began to scream, and were pleading Ed to come down. Ed’s mother, Lauren and Alex all arrived a few seconds later. They were in shock to see Ed about to jump, and begged him to get away from the edge of the bridge. For a split second, that had appeared to be enough to make him try to come down from the edge. But that’s when he started to lose his balance. He tried to regain it, but eventually fell from the bridge and into the river. Several members of the crowd screamed and cried in horror. We were blessed, however, that the ambulance had arrived on time with a doctor who was able to save Ed from drowning. He was then rushed to the hospital, leaving all of us to pray for his life and wait for what would happen next.

We waited for several hours until we heard news about Ed’s condition. We were delighted when we heard from the doctors that he was going to be okay. But while he ultimately failed in his attempt to end his life, he was left with a broken spine. He stayed in a coma for almost a month, after which he stayed in the hospital for months to receive psychiatric help in the wake of his suicide attempt. After the incident, many of us left with a feeling of shock. Ed never did seem like the kind of person who would throw away their life, even if something horrible had happened to him like it did in the months leading up to the incident. That’s what led all of us who lived in the same neighborhood to ask questions, and wonder what exactly it was that led Ed Walker to go over the edge in such a quick and dramatic way. Of course, we did get lots of information, after talking to many of his friends and family. But if there is one thing we ended up realizing from all of this, it is just how quickly people can lose the money and power they may have. Everyone saw how temporary the happiness that enormous amounts of wealth can be. Finally, we all saw what happens to the well-being of someone who once had everything loses it all. I am just one of many people in this neighborhood who has been a mere observer of these events of this, and I honestly cannot help but worry about one thing. As an anonymous, ordinary American citizen, I worry that if a family like the Walkers – a family with so much money and a nearly perfect life – is vulnerable to losing everything that they love so much, what terrible things could happen in the near future – in this new era of economic weakness that our country has entered - to the rest of us who already are suffering far too much?

The End

©2012 Anthony J. Piccione


Submitted: October 24, 2012

© Copyright 2023 Anthony J Piccione. All rights reserved.

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