In just a few days, I will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the day that changed my life. I haven’t been the same since that fateful day when a massive heart attack wrought havoc on my body. Before that day, I was the archetypical workaholic spending ungodly hours at the office and chasing every new potential opportunity. I loved the hectic pace of my career and the financial benefits that came along with it.
Growing up in a working-class neighborhood, I believed I had achieved the American Dream. I was married to a beautiful and successful woman, had two wonderful daughters, and owned a home in the suburbs. My career was limitless as was my future earning potential. I felt like King Midas, everything was going my way. Who could ask for more?
Suddenly, without warning, it all came to a screeching halt. Just like that.
After the heart attack, things got worse. I spent the next 100 or so days in the hospital on a variety of life support machines. I’ve been writing about that crazy summer in the blog series, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life.
As a result of the health crisis of a half decade ago, my energy level has been critically compromised. I no longer have the physical strength and vigor to work 16-hour days in the dynamic high-paced, pressure cooker environment I came to love. My limitless earning potential is now severely limited. My voracious appetite for delicious food has been relegated to a strict no-salt, low-fat, non-processed, and bland diet with few options, especially when going out to eat with family and friends. Perhaps most dispiriting is that Mark’s Hot Dogs has seen the last of me.
What’s to celebrate then, you might ask.
The answer is simple: life. That’s what I celebrate.
It may sound like a cliché and I now wonder if people truly understand its meaning. We’re all conditioned to say that we should be grateful for life when things get tough. But, are we really ready to settle for just being alive, even if it isn’t on our own terms? That’s the eternal question of humankind. When I thought that I was the master of my own universe, I never gave the question a first thought, much less a second thought.
Like most of us, I was preoccupied with career advancement, titles, and the trappings of climbing the ladder of success. Work challenges, future college tuitions, retirement, and 401Ks dominated my mind. I didn’t have time to consider the meaning of life, so I left that to the philosophers, clergy, and people who I thought were afraid to confront the realities of the world.
Now I think about it all the time. And it’s a blessing. During the past two-plus years, I’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey. I’ve stopped asking God “why?” and now reflect on “what.” What does He want me to do with this life he saved five years ago? What can I do to better appreciate His gift? What does He have in store for me today? I know I’m in for a long voyage, but I’m ready for the ride.
Earlier this spring, I announced on this blog that my book about that summer five years ago would be finished this summer. I had planned to end the story with my triumphant return home from the hospital. However, my spiritual awakening has been an important part of the ongoing story that began the day that changed my life. So I’m re-writing the final part of the book.
For those readers that don’t subscribe to a particular religious belief, fear not. My reflections aren’t designed to change your own beliefs. The final part of the book will be about faith, destiny, and my perspective on the eternal question.
In the meantime, if you have a moment, join me in celebrating five years of life. Click on the links below for the previously posted excerpts that chronicle that life-changing day in June.