Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

When You Don’t Get Another Chance


I learned about this expression a long time ago.  It was a very painful lesson, one that my father took with him to his grave.

Though I do not recall the year that it happened, I do remember that the event happened just days before Christmas, many years ago.  My father and my stepmother were having a discussion about insurance issues, that progressed into an argument.  They still had some last minute Christmas shopping to do.  They left their house just moments apart, my father first.  He got into his car, started the engine, then looked across the street to where my stepmother was now beginning to cross during the dusk hour of the evening.  And then it happened.  My stepmother never saw the car that hit her, and the injuries were critical and extreme.

On the plus side she would eventually recover enough to be released from the rehab facility, but clearly nowhere near a 100% recovery, if even 50%.  She also would have no memory of the accident itself.  And no memory of the accident, also meant that she had no idea of the discussion that the two of them were having that evening, before the accident.

For my father, that meant he would never have any opportunity to apologize for the conversation that evening, and bore 100% responsibility for the accident itself, feeling that if he had not left the house in such an angered rush, he would have been walking across the street with her, and being able to prevent her from being in the path of the oncoming car.  Yes, my father took that evening with him to his grave.

The fact of the matter is, there is always going to be that chance that we never get the opportunity to make things right, once it is taken away from us.

Anyone who has followed “Paul’s Heart”, knows that my daughters mean the world to me.  They are everything.  Every night (prior to my divorce filing), I held them.  I gave them a goodnight kiss.  And I told them that I loved them.

On April 16, 2008, I had a conversation with my daughters that I was going to be going away overnight.  Being they were only five and three years of age, I could only give them minimal information.  I told them that I was going to be going to the doctor, and it was going to get real late, so I would be staying overnight.  I gave them their kiss, and told them I loved them.  This would be the first time that we would be apart, ever.

As it was planned, I was going to have a minimally invasive cardiac procedure, and I expected no differently than to return home later the next day.  Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

I was informed by the doctors that the damage was not only unexpected, but not caused by common ailments.  The main artery going to my heart had become so scarred from radiation damage eighteen years earlier, I had a condition referred to unprofessionally as, a “widow maker.”  I was going to need emergency heart bypass surgery in less than 24 hours.  I would not be going home.  I would not get to see my daughters again until at the very least, unless the surgery would be successful.

The next several hours went by so quickly between the anesthesia wearing off from the procedure done earlier, followed by all the pre-surgery testing I had to go through, because doctors were dealing with a situation, that they did not have a lot of experience dealing with, a long term cancer survivor.

When the night finally slowed down, and I waited for the orderly to come for me, to take me to surgery, 6:00 arrived, and I arranged with my daughter’s mother to speak to them on the phone.  I could not hold them.  I could not see them.  They could not see that I was scared that I might not see them again.  All I could do is tell them that I loved them.  If everything went well, it would be at least another two days before I was even able to talk to them on the phone.

This is a time period that to this day causes me such sadness.


A week later, I was sent home, with my two very happy and caring little girls.  They knew that I had a very bad “boo boo” on my chest, and they took very good care of me.  Today, they understand that my health is not like everyone else.  And that is why I am doing all that I can to deal with the divorce issues with their mother so that the four of us can go on in the direction that we have chosen.  I do not want to ever have the situation again, that I did not get that one last chance with my daughters.

I have had two very extreme lessons in my life, about second chances, actually a lot more, but only used two for this post.  But you get the idea.  It is okay to have an argument.  But it is better to resolve it when you have the chance.  A lifetime of guilt is a horrible cross to bear.

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