Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

No Second Chance

It is something that happens all the time, whether married couple, a dating relationship, a sibling rivalry, or even a friendship.  People disagree, argue, or “fight.”  Under most circumstances, actually, hopefully, most of these situations resolve without any lengthy duration or any physicality.  As long as cooler heads can prevail, whatever the topic the disagreement is about, there should be a resolution.

For many, and unknowingly, there could be a time limit.  And there could be a permanent consequence involved.

There is an expression, “don’t go to bed angry.”

A news story from over the Atlantic came across my Facebook newsfeed.  A young couple, with three young children, had a fairly serious argument.  Unable to resolve it, the wife instructed the husband to find some space on their couch for the night.  A situation I am sure has played all over the world time and time again.  Unfortunately, the next morning, she found him the next morning, still on the couch, dead.  There was no foul play.  He had not committed suicide.

There are actually two stories here.  Though the news article did not articulate on the individual issues, just rather the potential cause, and the coulda-woulda-shoulda situation.  So, for the purpose of this post, I am going into the two issues, that possibly everyone reading this post may have been, or may just be in a similar situation.  My hope is that you take what I write to heart.

I first learned of the expression “don’t go to bed angry” more than two decades ago, in a very painful way.  I am not an angry or confrontational person, so it was not something that I had done or said in any of my relationships.  But one December night, my father and stepmother had been having an argument of auto insurance.  They still had some Christmas shopping to do, and right in the middle of this argument, they chose to continue it, while going shopping.  My father left the house ahead of my stepmother.  As he impatiently waited for her, he looked out his driver side window, watching my stepmother finally coming outside, cross the busy street, when suddenly, she was hit by a car.  Long story short, she survived, but suffered serious and life threatening issues, most permanent.  The only good thing for her, she had no recollection of the accident.  She also had no recollection of the argument.  But do you know who did?  Yes, my father.  He would never be able to resolve what happened that night, and would spend the rest of his life carrying the guilt of that night.  So, you see, you do not even have to go to bed angry to lose that chance at closure.

The father as young, only 36 years of age.  The wife was 31.  Together they had three young children.  As a family, they enjoyed doing things with each other, including family vacations.  And just with many families, work schedules play a vital role in allowing recreational activities as well as daily expenses.  But just how many hours per day, per week, per month, depend on your employment, and payroll.  A common argument, the wife complained about the long hours the husband had worked, many times working 16 hour shifts, seven days a week.  You may wonder how is this possible?  Simple, you can either work multiple jobs, or certain employers may offer overtime.

Again, this is a situation similar to my own personal experience.  I am “blue collar” by nature.  Definitely not afraid of working.  At one point in my life, I had been working a full time job, two part time jobs, all while attending college full time.  It was a ridiculous schedule, but when each job was only minimum wage, I did what I had to, to survive.  But later in my life, I was fortunate to land a job that would afford me a salary three times what I had ever made.  Along with that, I would have an opportunity to make overtime.  I saw this as a chance to really make a change in my life from a financial standpoint.  I would often find myself working anywhere between 60-70 hours per week, just so that I could provide nice things for my family, house, car, vacations, etc.

Getting back to the family overseas, their argument had good intentions.  There was clearly concern by the wife.  The husband had come home that evening, as she described him, in the worst shape she had ever seen, from an exhaustion or completely fatigued state.  Every year he had taken the family to Disney, but he was working to take his wife on a special anniversary trip to Prague.  Frustrated by his stubbornness not to take it easy and give himself some rest, she told him to sleep on the couch.  His body could not take the physical abuse any longer.  He died overnight.

Since my diagnosis with Hodgkin’s, my body has sent me three different warnings, that only when I got hit with the 4th warning, I finally listened.  I had cardiac issues that I was aware of for four months, but was more concerned with not missing work.  I was diagnosed with a widowmaker blockage, meaning,  I was going to have a fatal heart attack any moment.  But I kept working.  Then, several years later, not learning my lesson, I ended up back in the emergency room, having run myself down so hard, my body went into full blown sepsis, again, having no warning, other than when my body finally decided it had enough.  Nine months later, another episode with sepsis, promising myself, I would no longer do that schedule, but the pressure to provide the things my family I had always done was immense.  Three months later, another cardiac episode hit, and that was the end.  I was lucky.  I got the chance.  This other Dad, did not.  Like me, all he wanted to do, was provide nice things for his family.  We all want that.

But the human body is not meant to be pushed to such extremes.  The human body is not meant to be starved of nourishment and rest.  The human body is not meant to be abused, intentionally, or in the case of health issues like I have that result from long term effects of cancer treatments.  The body will only last so long.  And while concern may be expressed, if it is dealt with in anger, painfully as this young couple found out, the argument is what the widow will never be able to forget.  There is no second chance.  Once the words are out, the damage is done.  Once the body has suffered to the point of exhaustion, the damage is done.

Ideally, it would be perfect if we did not feel the need to pull the hours that need to be worked.  But no one should ever be faulted for wanting to be able to do the best we can for our families.  But there also needs to be understanding when we can no longer perform at that level, and be able to adjust.  Otherwise, there will be more unhappy endings such as this family must now endure.

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