Lessons from a Heart Attack

Posted by Doc
Mar 10 2009

Some of you may have noticed that I added a page about the heart attack I had in 1996. It was a powerful experience.

The reason I put up that story, is that there were some important and lasting lessons for me, from that experience. My hope is that I might spare you the heart attack and get right to the lessons. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s the thing…

As I lay on the gurney in the emergency room, I thought about things.

While I was waiting for Debbie to arrive, I thought about Debbie and our relationship and our communication.

When Debbie showed up, I thought about our life together and our four children.

As they were performing the angiogram, I thought about my employees, colleagues, and students (I was teaching programming at the community college and karate at my instructor’s dojo, at the time).

I came away with three simple lessons. Simple, profoundly simple. And life-changing, at least for me.

The way I remember them is this:

Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I’m sorry” – apologies are best delivered right away.

Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “I love you” – there’s never a wrong time to express your feelings, other than “later.”

Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “Thank you” – appreciation is best delivered warm.

You may never face death or debilitation. And I hope you don’t.

That doesn’t matter. The lessons are the same.

If you know me, you know that I’m very open about my feelings, quick to express appreciation, and quick to apologize (regardless of “fault” or “blame”).

Because I found a way to live that makes sense for me in every context.

Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or that you’ve done something wrong. It does acknowledge that there’s something wrong. That something might be that someone is unhappy, or that things didn’t work out the way you or someone else wanted, or any of a number of things. The thing is, saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t cost anything.

Saying “I love you” or “I like you” or “I’m glad you’re a part of my life” also doesn’t cost anything. Too many people say “he knows how I feel” or “I shouldn’t have to say anything – she can tell from the way I act” or… Well, let’s get real. We don’t know. We like to hear it. I feel good when someone tells me how they feel about me, even if it’s negative, because I can stop wondering and enjoy the situation as it is.

And gratitude… there is no gift so precious, at so little cost, as expressing gratitude or appreciation. It doesn’t take a long-winded speech. It just takes two words – “thank you.”

So let me close in the best way I know how…

I’m sorry if you don’t find this useful (even though I hope you do).

I’m glad that you’re a part of my life (even if I don’t know you).

Thank you for sharing my thoughts, for your comments, and for enriching the world I live in.

3 Responses

  1. Jo says:

    Awww, Doc. This post is awesome. Thanks for sharing and being so open, honest, helpful and – hmm – loving. Thanks for posting so often and giving me so much helpful and thought-provoking stuff to read.

    I really like the “I’m sorry” part, how you say it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, but it does mean there’s *something* wrong. I think that’s true, but up until now I’ve always felt it more meant that I’d done something wrong, and that’s probably kept me from saying it in some instances.

    I also like the part about telling someone how you feel about them. I always struggle with this. There’s this one person in particular in my life whom I care about, toward whom I’m never sure how to communicate my care.

    I really like this post. Thanks so much, and kudos.


    • Jo,

      About that one person – just say it simply. Like “I’m glad you’re in my life” or “I like having you around” – work up to it in stages if you need to, but say it.

      Telling someone you feel good about them – you like them, you like being around them, you like talking with them – is a generous gift that benefits both people.

      I always get teary-eyed and mushy when I tell someone how I feel, and I do it regardless, because it’s important.


  2. Hates_ says:

    All very important lessons. When I fight with my gf I still tell her I love her and she asks how can I say it when we’ve just had a fight. I tell her that even though the mood sucks, I still love her and never want to leave without not having told her how I feel incase something ever happens, because you never know what’s waiting round the corner

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