This is my dad and me.
This picture was taken in 1983, just a few weeks before my father's heart attack.
I will remember August 4th, 1983 forever and honestly? I hope that I do. It's a lesson everybody should learn - what not to do with your health (I'll save that blog for another day, though...you know, when I'm not stuffing myself with hot wings and liquor and won't come across like such a hypocrite). Anyway, he was an over-the-road truck driver, so he spent Monday through Thursdays on the road. He'd just come in off a run. He was sweaty, hungry and in need of a bath. He complained through dinner about not feeling good, and for some reason, our phone wasn't working (small town Iowa in August, what can I say) my mom drove into town to alert the First Responders. While she was gone, he started running bath water. He never got that far.
My mom showed up with the First Responders and the ambulance came shortly after that. He was rushed to the hospital 30 miles away and within a few days had two more heart attacks. When they went in to do an angiogram, he died on the table.
My father was clinically dead three times. Yet he miraculously made it off the operating table. We still don't know how it happened. We were told he had a hole in his heart the size of a quarter and his life would be cut drastically short because of it. His heart was too weak for surgical repair and they weren't even sure if it would fix it. He was told to quit smoking, start exercising and take it easy on the truck stop food he'd become so reliant on over the fifteen years he'd been a driver.
Typically, this is where the story would end. Somebody dies three times, they realize the error of their ways, they fix those problems and they live a long life. Or, worst case scenario, they don't change their ways and they die from the heart problems their doctors told them would kill them.
My father, however, was stubborn. He didn't learn his lesson. Ten years later, he had three more heart attacks and was pronounced dead three more times. Apparently, it took my dad six deaths to finally realize they weren't kidding back in the 80's. He retired from driving, quit smoking, lost weight and moved to the country. While he still went to his cardiologists regularly, he was in pretty good health.
We always expected it would be my dad's weak heart that would kill him.That's what was in his cards: death by myocardial infarction. He knew it. We knew it. His doctors knew it. But God had a different plan.
In late 2004, my father developed lung cancer. It spread to his lymph nodes and finally took over his brain. He was gone within three months. We buried him just three weeks before his 65th birthday.
The point I'm trying to make here is that we may think we know exactly what we're meant to do...what our destiny is, what our lives are supposed to look like. But the fact of the matter is, nothing is set in stone until we're buried beneath it. Heart problems killed my father six times, but he defied it. He refused to let anyone tell him what to do or that he was stuck with the cards he'd been dealt. While brain cancer is not the route I'm sure my father would've chosen to go if given the options, he did decide that a heart attack wasn't going to define him.
You may think that your life is paved out the way it was meant to be. It's not. Every minute that you have air in your lungs and a beat in your heart, you have the option of doing something different, being someone else, chipping away a different path for yourself.
Don't squander it. Don't settle. Don't give in.
Reach. Trust. Change.