Sixteen years ago tomorrow, November 15, 1996, while performing with Topeka Civic Theatre’s Laughing Matters Comedy Company, I suffered a heart attack. I never lost consciousness, and I can still remember the emergency room doctor saying, “Get him to the cath lab, stat!” As they rolled me away, I said goodbye to my wife and sons, and realized I might never see them again. A very sobering thought.
As I recall facing death, I begin thinking of all the things I would have missed had I not survived. I would never have known my three lovely granddaughters. I would never have started the Senior Class Improv Company. I would never have worked at the University of Kansas Public Management Center or the University of Kansas Medical Center, and never have met all the wonderful students I had there. I am so grateful to be alive; to be aware.
Of course not all of the memories are happy. There have also been illnesses, heartbreak, and loss. But, even pain is evidence of life — of self awareness, and it is a precious gift.
Last year, I met my Masters of Public Health Class at the University of Kansas Medical Center on November 15th and took a moment to share my thoughts about the value of life with them. The next day I received this email from a student: “I wanted to thank you for bringing a personal touch to the last class session by sharing your wisdom regarding the value of life after experiencing a near fatal heart attack. To me, that information is more valuable than the didactic class content.” Wow! Affirming huh?
All this started me thinking about Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Upon returning from the dead to experience just one more day, Emily says: “I can’t! I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.” Later she asks” “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?” Upon returning to the dead Emily says: “That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”
So here is my wish for everyone who runs across this blog: Slow down. Look at people. Try your best to realize life while you live it — every, every minute.