The Mortality of Life - My Dad had a Heart Attack

Oh how short is our life. Each moment. Each breath. A simple reality that is as tiny as a grain of sand when compared to the lives of so many others around us. The realization that everything happens for a reason can provide hope in dark times, yet it can become so very hard to adapt to such a belief once your world has been shaken.
During my childhood, my family always had regular holiday gatherings. Like clockwork. Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, Mother's Day, Easter....the traditional holidays where everyone spends time together with food and the enjoyment of company. As I've gotten older, things have slowly began to change. At Christmas, I was always given tons of presents and later cash as I began to grow older and toys were no longer 'cool'. Eventually, age caught up and I was rarely gifted so freely. It's a part of growing up that is a disappointment, but expected. What no one tells you is there is a change that comes with age that is worse than a lack of gifts or cash freely given. It's the lack of time. Eventually, there comes a day when you realize that the only certainty you have is that everyone around you will one day die.

This realization comes to the surface when suddenly family gatherings must be cancelled because some are tired or sick. Others moved to accommodate the elderly. The simple changes occur gradually until you finally understand that childhood truly has been left behind and nothing will be the same.

Depressing thought? Of course, but the realization of eventual death isn't the issue. The fact that we have no real control over the how or when except by taking our life is what is so depressing. What a cruel choice that is. What a cruel truth. Yet, life holds so many moments of beauty, we endure the stress, drama and heartache just for the enjoyment of simple pleasures. Passion, love and capturing beauty to be forever held in our memories. Sadly, no matter how beautiful the memories, those we love and the routines of life will change. Oh to be immortal and never endure such loss or sadness. Yet, without mortality, would we truly appreciate life or would we not take it for granted more than we already do?

Over the last 6 months, I've watched my world change. I've had my Aunt, who is my only local family (the rest is 45+ minutes away!) develop breast cancer and require a mastectomy. She's one of the most stubborn women I know. Did it beat her? Not yet. I stayed with her as long as she would let me, but even after her surgery, she had me drive her to Applebee's and to rent movies at Family Video so we could 'hang out'. Really? What spunk she has. I envy it. Yet, the breast cancer is not something to envy. It was unexpected. My Grandmother had died of uterine cancer in 2005, so that has long been expected as the end of our existence, but breast cancer was not among the 1000+ ways to die that we'd knew of. Of course, vintage medicine might not have caught the cause of death so it's possible it's genetic too, but doubtful.

Then, suddenly...the most unexpected of all. My Dad had a heart attack. When my Mom called, I was fixing Fajitas. Nice, spicy and colorful homemade fajitas. Singing and dancing around in my kitchen to Pandora like a total dork. Suddenly, the phone rings and time stopped. I felt as if I was in some strange dreamscape. My Dad is just as stubborn as my Aunt. I guess that's expected of siblings, but I never expected him to become ill in such a profound and sudden way. My Dad has always been a hard worker. Strong. Devoted to my Mom and tinkering in his garage! Of course, all that work comes with a price eventually, but I guess my Dad was always something of a Superman to me. For the first time in my life, I was reminded he is not immortal. The glimpse of human weakness is scary. I don't like it.

My Dad's heart attack had a purpose. The doctors were able to find a 90% blockage that would've otherwise eventually been the end of him. They put in a stint and after a period of recovery, he returned to work. I'm still confused whether or not to be relieved or freaked out. He often works 7 days a week. Of course he's not 'old' and feeble yet, nor do I see that occurring anytime soon, but the fact is, working so many hours is hard on the body. We need rest and time to enjoy life. I remember months prior how he'd go to bed often times as early as most people's supper. I'd begun to worry that he was working too much. Sometimes I see things a foreshadowing. I hate to be right.

Recently I too have been ill. I believe it was bronchitis or severe allergies, but due to my preference for holistic (natural) remedies, I endured privately. Over a month I was so short of breath that often times I was dizzy. There were two nights that scared me so greatly, I refused to sleep. I had dreamed that I was drowning. The sensation of water in my lungs was so intense I could feel the cold in my body. The first time, I woke suddenly and violently sat up. It was as if I broke forth from the surface of the water and took a long-overdue breath of air. The second time, I was awoken by one of my cats clawing my face. For a moment, I was not aware of anything except his insistent pawing, scratching and headbutting. Every instinct told me I had stopped breathing. For weeks, I slept either in my office chair or propped up in bed on my pillows which of course killed my neck. The lack of sleep did not help, but just like my Aunt and my Dad, I am stubborn. I began religiously using Vicks Vapor Rub. Even tried the laughed at remedy to put it on your feet and wear socks. Yes, it does work. I hooked up a humidifier and drunk more water than typical. I also focused on improving my intake of vitamin C and within a couple days, I was improved. I endured a lingering cough and shortness of breath for another week, but finally feel life returning.

The final irony in the sudden reminders of mortality was with one of my cats, Spica. She's one of the three who I've had about 10+ years now. Oddly, she and I seem to be emulating the other. We've had the same illness reminiscent of serious allergies or bronchitis, yet no one else in the house is sick. Strange. My vet was unable to diagnose her. She was twice given antibiotics, but neither cured her. So, she was taken to the more 'upper-class' vet in town. They checked her blood and teeth and found nothing amiss. So, they gave her a steroid shot and informed me she would remain ill indefinitely and to return for medicinal drops as needed. Every day, I spend more time with her than I have in years. Every moment she could leave me. Every moment of Darth Vader breathing could be her last.
In the end, the last few months have taught me to face the fact of mortality. I have been swiftly reminded at how utterly unfair and short life can be. How weak and talented betrayers our bodies are. I've always believed in good karma and have endured many heart aches due to my good heart. Yet, I would rather be hurt for trying to love all than to be hurt for not loving enough and feeling regret. If you've read this, find those you love and hug them. Kiss them. Make love to them. Show them their value while you can. Apologize for your wrongs and work hard to become a better person. If you have family, make time for them. Without it being a holiday. Call your contacts. Write your distant friends. Just take a moment to embrace life while you can. Life can change for you or those you know in an instant.
Amber FlowersComment