Tuesday, September 21, 2010 was a typical last day of summer in San Jose. The sun was shining with the temperature in the low 70s. Scattered white fluffy clouds majestically floated through the sky powered by a light wind. The next day would mark the celestial first day of autumn. In Native American culture, this time of year is celebrated with feasts of thanksgiving for bountiful harvests.
That Tuesday morning, some 69 miles away from home, I was overflowing with gratitude. I sat in a wheelchair in the lobby of Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center, site of a state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center. Anxiously looking out of the floor to ceiling windows at the busy parking lot, I was waiting to get a glimpse of Sandra’s silver Ford Explorer. I would soon be in the passenger seat for the drive home.
It had been 96 days since the last time I had seen my house. I stumbled out the door that night, June 17th, to take my third ride to the hospital in little more than a week. Ten days earlier, I had a massive heart attack. The event would change my life. The ensuing summer was a daily fight for survival as complications wreaked havoc on my body. For my family, it was three months of riding on an emotional rollercoaster with high points of hope and dips of despair.
Throughout the month of July, I laid in a lifeless coma being kept alive by a battery of machines and medications. August was marked by a slow recovery from the heart attack and its paralyzing after effects. Three weeks of intensive physical rehab in September resulted in me being able to sit up, stand, and walk with the aid of a walker. I was going home.
I was thankful.
Later that day, I tenderly walked through the front door. Moving through the threshold, I left a summer of uncertainty and began a long journey of discovery.
The damage to my heart is so extensive that my doctors recommended that I completely change my lifestyle. NO MORE stress. NO MORE working 16 hour days. NO MORE eating salty junk food. NO MORE dancing the night away and partying into the wee hours. NO MORE working out to near exhaustion to burn off unneeded calories. And definitely NO MORE HOT DOGS MUTHA******!
I’m learning moderation. I’m learning how to slow down. I’m learning how to enjoy simple things like taking a morning walk with Frank Sinatra tunes blaring through earphones. I’m learning how to lose myself in a book while sipping a cup of decaf. I’m learning about the power of faith, family and friends. I say learning because it’s still a work in progress.
Over the past 7 years, questioning why God let this happen to me has subsided in intensity and frequency. But the question still lingers. I still had much to do in 2010. I still had a full life ahead of me. At 46, my life was on the upswing. I had always thought that life at 53 would be the sweet spot, the high point of accomplishment and “success.” That’s not the way it worked out. Why me?
The answer is simple, yet complex. That’s not what God intended. He has me on an incredible life journey. The road to understanding Him and faith has been exhilarating and frustrating. While one moment can bring an exciting revelation, another can be littered with “why me” potholes. I’ve come to believe that unconditional faith is the formula for happiness.
Here’s how it works: Acceptance + Gratitude + Serving Others = FAITH. Like everything else that’s of value in life, getting this formula right will lead to the true definition of living a full life. I work on it every day. Every new revelation and pothole brings me closer to understanding how the formula works. I’ll write more about this as I discover more.
As for today, September 21, 2017, I’m just going to enjoy the typical last day of summer in San Jose . The sun is shining and fluffy white clouds are majestically floating by the family room window as I write. I’m still here 7 years after walking through the front door and into my new way of life.
And I’m thankful.