My father died at the age of forty-one. He was snatched away, while at work, by a massive heart attack, caused by a blood clot that could not pass through his hardened, clogged arteries. I was just thirteen years old at the time.
Although I was pretty young I remember the circumstances of the day as if that sad drama, or perhaps tragedy, had taken place only moments ago. When you kiss someone goodbye in the morning, you rarely expect it to be the last time you will see them on this side of the veil.
February 9th, 1959 had begun as a pretty happy day. My mother treated me to a beauty parlor appointment. I was graduating from the eight grade that coming June and although it was early February, graduation photos were being taken at school the next day. The beautician had even put a rinse in my hair when she heard my hair was being done for a special occasion. It would be shinier than usual for the posed photographs. I couldn’t wait to get home to show my family.
There was quite a bit of noisy buzz reaching me as I climbed the final flight of stairs to the sixth floor apartment. Even though it was really cold the front door was open and all the neighbors were standing around inside. I couldn’t imagine what was going on. The noise abated when I walked in. I went straight to the living room where my mother was sitting in a chair crying. With several of the neighbors watching I took my mother’s hand asking where my grandmother was. Even at that young an age I knew by my mother’s tears, and the crowd in the house, someone had died. Since grandma was the oldest, I assumed something had happened to her.
The words, daddy died, did not register immediately. I remembering not believing her at first. Crying out that someone had lied to her. He was coming home. She told me that police had called and told her over the phone. Co-workers had found him. He dropped dead. Just like that. Losing a parent is never easy, even when it is expected because of illness, but having one stolen without warning as through an accident, or sudden heart attack, suspends reality. It’s just not to be believed.
The circumstance of his death is forever etched in my mind. Hundreds of what ifs play in my head. What if they had today’s technology. What if he could have been saved? How would have my life been different growing up with a father. These and more are questions without answers.
Having a loved one seized from me in such a manner didn’t and doesn’t dictate how I live my life. But I am always conscious that it can happen. While fairly cavalier with my own being, I insist my husband do well visits to the Doctor.
Two weeks ago I set up a cardiologist appointment for life long partner and husband, Jim. He had no symptoms, no pains, and no real reason to go to the Doctor. In fact, he is hardly ever sick and has never been hospitalized in his life. He barely catches colds. Never-the-less, I insisted. What was wrong with having some routine tests just to have a picture of what your heart looks like when it is healthy? Jim appeased me, the cardiologist agreed. Probably just to quell my unspoken fears.
One week later Jim had a quadruple bypass. The surgeon told us that his main artery going to the heart was over ninety percent blocked. Additionally, three lesser arteries needed to be bypassed as well. There would not have been a heart attack, it would have been sudden death.
At this moment, Jim is home and on his way to full recovery.
Some might think that we were some really lucky people. Others might believe in predestination, it wasn’t his time to go. As for me, I know I would no longer be who I am supposed to be without Jim, my life partner. Whoever in the heavens decides these things, blessed me with an angel to watch over me. My angel whispered in my ear to get my honey to the doctor. And so I did!