Fifty-Four Year Old Men Are Not Supposed To Die - January 14, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
First, before I say anything else, I want to thank my "core" of Sparkers for their unwavering support. I very much appreciate the notes on my SP page, the comments on my feed, and the texts to my phone, especially over the last two weeks, as these sad events began to unfold. You all are very special people.
In the last several months, I have seen two men, young in years, felled by illness that came, for lack of a better word, like a thunderclap. One day they were fine, and then =BOOM!= out of the blue, the first 54-year old had a stroke, and then several months later the second 54-year old went into cardiac arrest. Watching these events unfold, barely a little more than two months apart, was stunning, again, for lack of a better word. What many of us have written to each other and discussed on the phone with each other, of late, is that life is incredibly short, and so unpredictable. And as Wife Number One e-mailed me, we are so not in control of these events, and that we cannot make ourselves crazy with the “wuddas, cuddas, and shuddas” of life. To a point, I do agree.
Wife Number Two, also a nurse, took a different stance, and her eulogy for a beloved husband reflected that. Being the person she is, and knowing her and the depth of her grief, she kept her remarks light, and riffed on an old movie, “Love Story”, and started her remarks with, “What can you say about a 54-year old man who died?” One thing I know for certain, and one she included in her speech is, they never lived with “what if” moments. They shared an amazing, yet simple love. Each conversation that they shared on the phone ended with an “I love you”, without exception, and I overheard many of those conversations, working elbow to elbow with her for two years. He also concluded the conversations the same way. It was their way of saying goodbye. Back at the house after the interment, she joked with me that she said that because she was sure she was going to die first. This was typical of her. After her first e-mail telling me of the horrific events that had transpired that first Tuesday back in December, I decided to take a trip down to Brooklyn the following Tuesday and check up on her. What I found was a woman completely in charge. She commandeered a situation that I can only begin to imagine. And as a result, I came to the conclusion that, either way this plays out, I knew one thing: She’s going to be all right.
These events have cascaded to other people I know. I got a call from my best friend today that I missed, and the message was, “What was the day I had chest pain? [I’m the keeper of the data and the chronology of events as she has a horrible memory for sequences.] I’m on my way to the doctor’s and I feel so stupid going when I feel OK.” We all wore her down, apparently, to get her to see the doctor, that albeit she was feeling better, her symptoms of the previous week were very bizarre for an otherwise normal, healthy 60-year old.
I got another call, earlier, from a former coworker who also was following the events of our mutual friends from the hospital where we had worked. She, too, remarked that she had had blood work done, as she had a history of diabetes in her family and was “concerned” that it was a point above normal. It struck me as interesting how we hear what we want to hear: She told me that her cholesterol was a steady, elevated, 290. That, interestingly enough, didn’t phase her. Her doctor had been telling her “for years” to begin medication, which she refused. I for sure thought she was on something with that high a value for cholesterol. And the final remark? “I really don’t want to be on medication, then, for life.” How does one begin to even answer that? Finally, I said, “Be glad that there are medications for those conditions.”
So, what’s the bottom line in all this? As I stated in the earlier blog, the best we can do for our health, is to optimize it, so these catastrophic events do not occur. We cannot avoid it all, of course, but perhaps, as we often read, a person can be saved, because s/he was in the best possible physical shape. And that, dear Sparkers, is the saving grace: That’s all we can do to rescue us from something that could be totally catastrophic.
The second thing is, to remember what and who are important: The relationships we nurture -- spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, child, friend -- these are the people that enhance our world and make it all worthwhile. Have you told someone you love lately how much they mean to you? If you haven’t said it in a while, consider doing so. It will make the world of difference for both of you.