I've quickly discovered that life sometimes hits you with plenty of bad news wedged between the good. It prompted me to take a minute, step back and regain my sense of perspective. After all, it doesn't take much in our lives to make us reset our priorities on what's really important.
My first "reset" happened years ago after one unforgettable moment when everything in my life came to a screeching halt at 3 o'clock in the morning.
At first, it was an annoying sensation that stirred me out of a sound sleep. My heart was racing along at a pretty fast clip. Must've been a bad dream, I figured. But when my heart wouldn't calm down, things started getting a bit scary.
I tossed and turned several times trying to shake off the sensation. Maybe turning this way or that would make things go away and let me sleep.
No such luck.
Then the shakes set in and the heart beating got stronger -- strong enough that I could see my T-shirt moving in rhythm with the beat. By then, my fidgeting woke my wife.
"Are you okay?" She knew something was wrong.
"I'm not feeling very good," I said as tried to feign my true feelings. "My heart is beating a little too fast. I'm going downstairs to shake it off."
Then I stood up and my whole world went into a spin. I couldn't tell up from down, and now my fingers were tingling.
All my adult life, I've known the warning signs of a heart attack, and now I was experiencing several of the danger signals. I was in serious trouble, and I knew it. Panic set in as I braced for the inevitable: My heart was going to suddenly stop and that would be it.
My wife punched the 911 number into the phone. An ambulance was on its way. As we waited, I stared into my wife's eyes and just talked about anything to keep me distracted. To this day, I don't remember what we said.
A few eternities later, my wife and I arrived at the hospital, and they wheeled me into the emergency room. Doctors, cardiologists and medics hovered around me running tests and drawing blood.
Finally, the prognosis came back. No heart attack. Nothing extremely nasty. It was a very serious reaction between my prescription medication and an over-the-counter brand -- an oversight I've never repeated to this day.
A few days after that unforgettable moment in my life, my wife reminded me of that night and mentioned our conversation before the ambulance rolled up to the house. She said I forgot to tell her one very important thing -- "I love you."
I cursed myself for forgetting. After all, it was a very basic routine we follow each day. Many years prior, we made a promise to recite those three words each day, normally before I left for work, again during the day and always before we went to bed. We never go to sleep while we're angry at each other. It's a hard-fast rule we've nurtured after nearly 25 years of marriage.
"I love you." They're the same words we told each of our children as they strolled upstairs to go to bed. If anything should happen to me or my wife, we want to ensure our words live on.
No reservations. No regrets.
I cringe at my unintentional oversight that early morning. I spent considerable time making up for my faux pas by telling my wife how much I love her.
This little tradition isn't limited to just my immediate family. We decided to carry it over to others we care so much about. It became painfully clear while we were stationed overseas. Over the course of four years, I lost an uncle and grandmother that were very dear to me. On neither instance did I have a chance to tell them I love them. I've lived with that reality ever since.
Then there was the case of my father, who was hospitalized for a seriously blocked artery next to his heart. The doctors gave him extremely good chances of making a full recovery, but the idea of operating next to his heart prompted me to call him several times before his scheduled surgery. Each time we finished our calls, I always left him with one final message, which he always repeated back to me.
"I love you."
Although he pulled through with flying colors, I'm glad we took time to talk.
There's always time to say, "I love you." There isn't enough time in the world to say it if you lose the opportunity.
-- Brian S. Orban