He had a headache, not bad, just one Tylenol bad. It didn’t stop, so he took two and went to bed. He felt funny the next morning, but did his regular thing. That afternoon he had another headache and grabbed a bottle of Ibuprofen and took 4. He still didn’t feel very well and thought he was coming down with something.
The next morning, he still felt strange, but went to work anyway. About 2:00 PM he had another headache and felt dizzy, so he went home sick.
He called in sick to his job the next day from the hospital. They were pumping him full of IV fluids and clot busters to prevent a series of “mini-strokes” from becoming a major one.
The trouble was, mini-strokes have profound impacts too. The hospital staff told him how lucky he was. He didn’t feel lucky. The right side of his face drooped. He had difficulty speaking. His right arm and leg were limp, and try as he may, he could barely move them. He tried to write, but couldn’t make his fingers hold a pen.
He felt even less “lucky” after spending two months in a stroke rehab center where he battled to walk again, and regain his hand coordination, speech and ability to smile with both sides of his mouth. When they discharged him, the rehab center told him he would have to work the exercises on his own from then on. They added that he had a year to get back what he could and after that, he would pretty much have all he could ever hope to get back, so start working, big boy!
He threw himself into the task at hand. It wasn’t like he was a child learning to walk, talk and throw a ball. He felt like a child trying to do that, but one who didn’t have the ability to make the right side of his body do what the left side of his brain told it. He tried, hard. He really tried.
A year came and went. He got a prescription brace to help him pick up his foot because when he walked, he had drop foot. He could put his foot down, but couldn’t lift the front part of his foot back up. The brace sprung the front part of his toes back up for the next step, and that helped his walking, a lot. His right arm was a problem though. He had been right handed and began doing more and more with his now dominant left hand, but he had no strength in his right arm.
He was 62 years old when he had mini-strokes. The year before he had built a shop behind his house and was preparing to “retire” at 65 and start a little welding and repair business. He had to dip into savings during the months off work while in rehab, and ultimately, it cost he and his wife all of their savings. The shop he built was now useless to him. He couldn’t lift much weight, and besides, sometimes just keeping his balance was an accomplishment.
So what do you do when you’ve saved, planned and prepared for retirement for years and then you find yourself broke, both financially and physically? His plan is to keep working in his job now for as long as he possibly can. It’s not easy. He’s a first line supervisor with occasional fine motor skill duties. Fortunately, he can still do the job with some extra effort, but nonetheless, he can’t retire for a long while now.
There will be few retirement trips with his wife. He won’t be using the expensive new shop standing behind their house. He won’t be able to play catch with his grandson or build the big playhouse for his granddaughter.
His eyes automatically look down when he talks about what he can’t, and won’t, be able to do. But his downcast eyes don’t last long. He looks up.
His eyes become deep, resolved when he talks about what he intends to do, now. He intends to have regular deep conversations with his adult children. He intends to sit in the audience at every piano recital and little league baseball game his grandkids are in. He intends to figure out how to make ends meet and take care of the love of his life in their golden years after the golden nest egg became red ink. He intends, to the best of his ability, to be a positive example for anyone who may have similar problems or circumstances. He intends to finish well, even if he limps with a foot drop leg brace across the finish line instead of running through the tape. He intends to live on, in the best way he can, live on.
I admire that. I respect him even more.
That’s his story in a nutshell, but he wants to use what’s happened to him to help others.
If you’re still reading, then you too are one of the people he wants to help and encourage. You are one of the people he wants to smile at, and tell you to enjoy living today the very best you can. He wants to help bolster up your strength so you can smile at adversity when life isn’t fair or it doesn’t go the way you thought it would.
If you have it a lot, or even a little harder than other people, then he wants to look you in the eye and give you an atta boy just for staying in the game!
And, he wants you to know eternity and heaven are real, and how you look at your life and circumstances really makes all the difference in the world. So, enjoy the miniature sample of eternity today by taking time to stop and enjoy your life, even if it’s not perfect, enjoy it right now.
He wants to say you can overcome! Don’t give up! Climb your mountain! You can do it because a champion is not measured by how he starts, but how he finishes.
That’s his story. This is his hope. Finish well!