The Wake-Up Call

By: Christine Hersom

(3 min. read)

Have you been going through life lately, thinking everything is going great? I have been.

I was at a point in my life where I was feeling healthy. My work was going well, home life was nice, and Florida vacation was almost here. Life is great…

Then BAM!! Life hits you. On January 21, 2023, my husband had a heart attack. While in the ER, our life kept going through my mind. I got married when I was nineteen years old, and he was twenty-four. We have grown up together. We raised our children together (the truth is we grew up with our children). Marriage isn’t always easy, but it is beautiful. He is my best friend.

There I was, standing in the corner of the trauma room while six to eight people bustled around his bedside. They were starting IVs and running EKGs. While doing that, he was being prepped for an ambulance ride to another hospital for the Cath lab. I thought WTF!

I mean, I didn’t always do things the “right” way, but I have atoned for any mistakes I have made. We are still married even though many said, “you’re too young. It will never last.” We celebrate 39 years together in April of this year. We did everything that “societal norms” said we should do when we began our life together. Marriage, family, jobs, save for retirement. What is going on?

While watching all this unfold, I thought about all our plans for this part of our lives. Travel, spending time with grandchildren, and relaxing.

We have always talked about and planned for our “future” deaths. He is retired military and an operating room nurse. Planning for and being aware of death seemed normal to us. I couldn’t believe the future might already be here. We have raised our children to work hard and save money for emergencies and retirement. This is how we have worked, too. It was such a gutshot to think that we worked this hard only to lose it.

I know many people have gone through this. I don’t care how often you have planned for the death of your spouse or significant other. It is surreal when death gives you a slap upside the head. My husband didn’t die, but it was a wake-up call.

Although we often feel that we are riding a life “high,” so to speak. Are we? I watched the medical professionals load my husband into the ambulance and drive off. I didn’t know what I should do. My “on-task” brain went into failure. Whom do I call? Can somebody drive me to the next hospital? Is his DD-214, or where can I find it? Should I call his work? On and on, my brain went.

Thank goodness that while walking to my car in the parking lot, I tripped and fell (I never thought I would be thankful for that). Falling on the pavement at my age was not a good time, but it knocked the adrenaline trip right out of me. Calm settled into my body. It was time to pull my “big girl” pants up and deal.

I got into my vehicle, called my daughter, and told her I needed her to drive me to Concord Hospital. The rest could wait.

The point so far is not to garner sympathy from everyone. It is to give you a baseline for my next thoughts.

Life is short. We all say it when a friend or relative dies. I am not sure we all understand what we are saying until death looks us in the eyes. I spent five days with my husband in the hospital to think about our life. We were always going to retire together. We would work until he was 67 and I was 62. We had already begun planning our bucket list vacations. I couldn’t believe our dreams might go up in smoke.

While we need to work hard and save for retirement, I now understand we cannot work so hard for a life in the future. We need to enjoy life now. We need to say “Yes” to adventure.

When I was growing up, my grandmother would always say, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Who knew how profound that saying would be? Yes, we need to work, but we do not need to work ourselves to death. We need to enjoy life as we live it because not everybody gets that “retirement” period to do it all.

If there is any takeaway from these past few weeks, it is to do things now because nobody is promised tomorrow.

Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC

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