Eight months ago, my husband had a heart attack.
The event and what came after (and continues to come) has changed everything, but perhaps not in the in the way you might think
Before … he worked too hard; took all the stress of the world and life and our marriage on his shoulders. If he took a day off or an afternoon off, he stressed about it because being self employed means that for every minute not working, it was money he wasn’t making and somehow he wasn’t providing for his family.
If he has a fatal flaw, it’s that he’s the first one to run to anyone’s aid. Got a flat? Call him. Need to move something heavy? Call him. Need something fixed? Call him. Got a broken heart? Call him. Need whatever? Call him. More often than not, he’d run to your aid, even if you didn’t call him. And whether you’ve known him for thirty minutes or thirty years, it didn’t matter.
Then, one night, after an extremely stressful week and attending a big family gathering, he woke me with a pain in his chest. He was SURE it wasn’t a heart attack but the fact that he woke me and let me call 911 scared the shit out of me.
Fifteen minutes later, we were standing in the bedroom with one cop and three paramedics.
A million “what ifs” ran through my mind as the ambulance took him to the local hospital.
After … in the days and months that followed, we learned a lot. Both physically and emotionally.
We learned just how much blockage he had (which took four stents to solve), and how fortunate we were that things played out the way they did.
We learned how lucky we are to have family and friends and neighbors that RAN to our aid. They came with food. They came with money. They came with shovels to dig out our driveway when it snowed a few weeks afterward. They came to the hospital, to the house and they came with offers to help and shoulders to lean on.
And we were grateful beyond words.
What we also learned was that the ones who came to our aid weren’t always the ones we expected. Friends we hadn’t seen in years showed up. Others disappointed us.
Now, months later, the most important thing we learned is that life is short. No big revelation there.
The most dramatic changes of course have been his. He quit smoking (thankfully) but still desperately misses it. He no longer works twelve-hour days, which just seems to go against his DNA … but a fact that I am grateful for.
Recovery from a heart attack is not just the physical. People told us that six to eight months later, he would have a period of adjustment and face the hard facts that things he could do before, he would no longer do (or want to do). And they were 100 percent right. And THAT has been the hardest thing for him to take in. But he’s doing great!
I don’t know that I believe in blessings in disguise as much as I believe that things happen for a reason. So I’ll go out on a limb and say that my husband’s heart attack was the best thing that could have happened because it has taught him (and me!) that life is short and there’s no use wasting time on people or things that cause us undo stress.
When I was younger, I used to carry this quote from the poet Nikki Giovanni in my wallet and now more than ever I feel it sums up our life:
“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”