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The Truth about Life

Thanksgiving was always a time of fun and feasting- the time of the year that no one wanted to miss. Long distance family members would travel in from their different corners of the world and loved ones would catch up on lost time. Life was almost tangible in the atmosphere. Predictably, everyone joined together for the same event and for once, in my family, everyone was happy. This day happened only once and then it was gone just as quickly as it started. I have always known that life could end at any moment, but one Thanksgiving morning showed me how unpredictable life really is.

It was Thanksgiving morning and my dad was more than excited to go my grandmother’s house in Norborne, Missouri for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. My dad was more excited about the food and the football, than seeing his family. Perhaps it was the excitement of impending euphoria that put my dad over the edge. My family was gathered in the living room and I was standing next to my dad texting away on my cellphone when he complained of a numb cheek. I was young and invincible and made a flippant remark about punching him in the cheek to see if he could feel it. Now, I think back and wonder if this one remark could have been the last thing I would have ever said to my dad. Dad, being a man, thought nothing of his numb cheek, rubbed it off, and walked away. Moments later, my dad came stumbling into the living room. “I can’t walk. I can’t walk,” he slurred. My dad has always been my role model and my biggest fan, but to see him weakened and dying was a humbling experience for me. As my dad was falling and struggling to get back up, my family and I, my mother especially, seemed to be in an extended state of shock. It took but seconds for my mother to unfreeze and run to my dad but in the moment, it could have been hours. I went ahead and opened doors while my mother grabbed my dad hobbled slowly down the steep, narrow steps to the car. Not about to be left behind while my dad could be dying, I left my brothers behind and got in the backseat going along for the ride, for better or worse.

My family and I were living in a home just down the road from the hospital, but the ride seemed endlessly long while my dad was close to dying. We arrived at the Emergency Room doors, and like an action packed T.V show, we parked the car right out front, flung open the doors, and left the car behind realizing that family and life were more important than what material items we cherished. My parents, together, hobbled side by side through the Emergency doors and to the unknown. Arriving in the waiting room just in time to see my parents go through the closed doors, I realized that I was utterly alone. Every event up to this point seemed unreal, like a nightmare I could not wake up from, and in these moments by myself, I comprehended what was happening. My dad was on the verge of dying and as I realized this, I began to bawl streams of endless, salty tears. The secretary at the Emergency Room desk left her sterile cubicle to bring me a box of tissues. It was during this time that I prayed for my dad’s safety but I also gave thanks to God for the secretary and her kindness. Praying was the only way I knew how to deal with this horrifying situation. Through the tears and the prayer, I texted a friend, the friend I was texting when the whole event began, telling her what had happened and to, above all else, pray. My friend sent out a mass text message to the people of my church asking them to pray for my dad. I was not sitting alone in the waiting room long before I saw her come through the ill-fated doors and hug me. It amazed me how one moment can change a truly devastating incident into a moment of peace and joy. Occasions like this, however, happen for but an instant.

I was never so uncertain of my future until I saw my mother walking toward me with her arms held wide. It was in this moment that I understood why ignorance is bliss. Staggering toward my mother, I could have stayed ignorant about the welfare of my dad, but, if nothing else, my mother needed me. My mother engulfed me and said that all would be well- my father was going to be fine, just fine. Relief flooded over me. I was always independent, even then, but I realized then that I needed my family more than I ever imagined. My mother invited me back to his hospital bed to see him. Walking through the hospital to his room in the Intensive Care Unit, I was anxious to see what I would find. Although my dad was normally a strong man, he looked weak in his hospital bed. What would normally be a devastating image for me was now an image of thankfulness because my dad was alive. It did not matter to me anymore if my dad was weak or strong but rather that he was around to begin with because in a moment he a may not be.

Through my dad’s heart attack, I learned that life is long and short, wide and narrow, fast and slow, but above all else, life is merely unpredictable. It is too easy to believe that you will live forever and if not forever then, at least, long enough to do and be everything you wanted. Brutally, I found out that life has no promises. Life can slip through your fingers in a flash or days can seem to go on for years. But ultimately, I realized that life is a gift to be cherished.

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