My Valentine’s Message To You…Take Care Of Yourself Because You Are Loved
I have been feeling the love and out pouring of support since I “came out” and told the story of my heart attack. I think my purpose is unfolding before me. I’ve been hearing from survivors, people who went to see their doctors because of me, and from family members of heart attack victims. This Valentine’s Day, I want to share the story about my dad, his heart attack and how it affected me. My prayer is that it will motivate you to take care of yourself because you are loved…
My dad died of a heart attack when I was 20. It was terribly shocking to our family. He was such a strong force and the bedrock of our family. But to outsiders, it wasn’t really surprising. My dad had a stroke the year before, and he had various thromboses (blood clots) in the previous 10 years. I wasn’t really aware of the gravity of the situation – but he sure was. He was a doctor.
When the surgeon general announced in 1964 that smoking increased the mortality rate by more than 70%, my dad – a two pack per day smoker and father of 2 kids under the age of 3 – decided to quit. It took him several years, but he did it. I know it was very, very difficult. But he loved life and wanted to be there for us.
My dad lived life to the fullest. To him life was like turning the fire hose on and he tried to drink it all in. He loved life – simple pleasures. In his youth in Germany he dreamed of becoming a doctor. The doctor in his village helped many, was well respected, and was married to the prettiest woman in town. My dad wanted that for himself and got it. He married my mom, a beautiful woman, had three children, and a nice house with a rocking chair next to the fireplace. Life was good.
We grew up in northern Wisconsin. No cows “Up North”, just forests and lakes. He loved the great outdoors and chose to settle there. The trees, the lakes, fishing, hunting, boating, sailing, skiing – you name it – any outdoor sport – was all available to us. My memories of him are filled with the enthusiasm with which he approached any new task or endeavor.
He loved his family and loved me. I know how much I was loved because he told me often. I sat next to my dad at the kitchen table, and the exchange went something like this…
My dad would lean over and look me in the eye asking, “Do you know what?”
I would ask, “What?”
He would say with a twinkle in his eye, “I love you.”
And I would answer, “I know. I love you too.” and squirm a little bit uncomfortably with his intensity.
But the intensity with which he lived was also something that did him in. Even after the stroke, he protested the change in his diet. He could quit smoking but couldn’t give up red meat. And instead of taking it easy, he went right back to working his very demanding schedule. And on his day off he died of a heart attack. My sister, only 15, found him dead.
Our family was so greatly affected by the loss of our dad. We are forever changed. My mom, also a German immigrant, had to deal with having two kids in college, one in high school with no family nearby to support her. My dad never saw me graduate, never met my husband or kids, never saw what any of us had become. And at times, we really, really needed him.
So why am I sharing this?
- I want YOU to be there for your family.
- I want YOU to live to a ripe old age in excellent health.
- I want YOU to be around for your family.
- I want YOU to see what your children become, who they marry, and know your grandkids.
And I also wish this for ME.Take care of yourself, because you are loved. Click To Tweet
So take charge of your health. Heart disease happens over time, often without symptoms. Be proactive. Get your blood work checked . Pay attention to what you eat. Take a pause, savor the moment and don’t get too stressed. Learn to say “No” if too much is on your plate – even if it’s hard. You have more power than you think.
I am taking care of my body and learning to live life with a little less intensity. I will not let my bright light be extinguished before its time. Take care of yourself because you are loved and the world won’t be the same without you.