Believe me. When that doctor came into my hospital room May 5 and told me my liver was worthless and that I didn’t have much time left, my thoughts immediately went to my family. I didn’t think of my house, my career or any of the stuff that clutters my world. They say your life flashes before your eyes. It does.
First, I thought of my wife. She’s been my best friend since 1982. I can still see her coming down the aisle on that rainy June 2, 1984 afternoon. I can see her looking into my eyes and pausing in a moment of panic when she forgot her vows. I remember our kiss and the way my heart felt like it was going to explode as we walked past our friends and family as husband and wife. What would she do? How would she live? My life insurance was the first casualty of this liver disease. She wouldn’t even have enough to bury me.
Next, I thought of my daughter’s wedding July 2. Would it now be a day of mourning instead of the celebration we’ve been planning? I thought of her standing in her snow suit on top of a snowbank at 5 yelling, “I love daddy!” at the top of her lungs and listening for the echo off the nearby courthouse. I remember her refusing to take a break while learning to ride her bike and through determined tears saying, “No! I WILL do this!” I thought of the cold bleachers and the hours and hours cheering for her as she played field hockey. What would she do?
Next into my mind came my Jacob. “I got the rug burn,” he would tell everyone when he was about 3 and had a scab on his nose. He rubbed his nose raw on the carpet while we were on vacation. I saw him dancing on second base with his helmet on crooked while he used his knuckles to knock on his athletic cup keeping a beat. I thought of him making us laugh and laugh like third-borns usually do. I thought, “He can’t let this take him off course. He will finish culinary school, won’t he?”
And then, my Josh, my first born. I remembered him learning to walk at the back of a camp chapel while I encouraged the people there to give Jesus a chance. I remember playing “Hook” pinball and us yelling “Bang-a-rang!!!” when we’d go to the game room at Attitash when his little brother and sister went to bed. Buckets and buckets of baseballs, his first homerun and driving hours watching him play the game we love. The concerts, the road trips and the pride seeing him graduate with honors from Bates College. I saw them all like a movie. “Lord, I want to see him graduate with his Phd.”
Parents, sisters, relatives, friends … how would my death affect them? I couldn’t even think without weeping.
Dads, can you picture it? None of us want to cause so much pain to the people we love but we’re always putting our health off until “later.” I beg you to understand that investing another hour at work instead of going to the gym to shed those extra pounds will not matter one bit if you find “doctor death” (as I like to call her now) giving you news that will take your breath away like a lineman driving his helmet into your ribs.
Dads, we have to take care of ourselves for the people we love. Go get the physical. Try a salad. Go for a walk, ride a bike, play tennis, move … please stop putting it off.
The people you love are the only thing that matters.