Traditioanlly, If you canceled a permanent life insurance policy, the carrier would need you to either sign paperwork acknowledging you want to terminate the coverage or they record the phone call (think of the latter as like a voice signature). If there is cash value inside a permanent life policy and the policy is canceled, you are cashing it out (less any surrender charges or outstanding loans against the policy, if applicable).
Did he receive a check for any cash value or did the carrier indicate they were sending monies?
How old was the policy and what age was he when he took it out?
If all routes to put the old policy back in force are exhausted, then you may want to look at an alternative course of action.
An option to consider to secure new coverage is to use the monies received from the cashed out whole life policy to put towards the premiums for a new policy to substantially reduce the premiums that would be needed for the coverage. If he is much older, then you may want to consider a Guaranteed Universal Life policy instead of a whole life policy. Guaranteed universal life minimizes the cash value buildup to minimize the dollar spent per $1,000 of coverage.
I hope the information is helpful – please feel free to contact me for help with your coverage and if you have any other questions. Thanks very much.