Nothing Special, Really

Monday, January 11, 2010


This certainly wasn’t what I had in mind when I said something was coming soon.

On January 2nd, Wac got a call from a friend of hers. One of their mutual college friends passed away during the night. He was 28. Initial reports were that it was due to a heart attack, although I don’t know if that was confirmed. What I mean is that I’m sure it was confirmed by doctors but Wac hasn’t thought to confirm. Whatever the case, his death was completely unexpected. He was undoubtedly in better shape than I was. We’re talking about a kid – a kid who has scaled Mt. Rainier. A husband and a father for only 6 months.

On January 1st, he updated his Facebook page with a comment that he was listening to old Beatles records that evening. To most of his friends and family, these were his last words. He was gone later that evening.

We attended his memorial service on Thursday. 150 or so friends or families gathered to pay their last respects. He, Jordan, was deeply involved in the church. He was a graduate from a Christian college like Wac and was a leader of the youth group at the church. Some of his friends paid their respects by performing a couple of songs, others took to the podium to say a few words or relate to the congregation some of their favorite memories of Jordan.

I spent the service in another place, mentally. I don’t share the same faith that most everyone else there holds. Not to say that I wasn’t touched or that I didn’t choke up a bit; I did. It was a very touching service to a kid who’s life was tragically cut short (the pastor made a similar comment to this point which I thought was incredibly poignant; to me, it seems too blindly faithful to always chalk a tragedy like this to “God’s plan.”). But, while others eulogized their best friend, their brother, their husband, I kept thinking about something else.

I was thinking about what I would say at my father’s funeral.


I got a call from Laurie, my older of two sisters, as I was driving home from work on Tuesday. I try not to answer the phone when driving if I can avoid it, especially at night on a rainy two lane bridge. I figured she was following up her call that I missed on Sunday.

When my other sister, Bev, called me 5 minutes later, I knew something was up. This couldn’t just be a coincidence. So I answered.

Bev tells me that Dad had a heart attack. He is alive and under care at the hospital.

I didn’t know how to react. The fact that he was still alive was calming, and I took Bev’s demeanor as a sign that he was doing well, considering.

She asked whether or not I would come down to Phoenix. The rest of the family was on their way to the hospital. I didn’t know. I didn’t get the sense that I would be going to say my final goodbye, so I had less of an urgency to go. It would have been difficult to make it happen financially anyways. I knew that my family would want me to be there if I could, but I didn’t know what I would be going for.

I wasn’t really prepared for this.


I spoke with the rest of my family that night, including my dad. The impression was that he would probably recover from this, with some help of course. Stents to help with the blockage of two arteries. A pacemaker to temporary, and maybe permanently, help his heart out. A lot of medical words were being thrown out, and I didn’t really know what all of it meant. It was too much.

When I spoke with my Dad, I teased him about his idea of fun. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him for long. His voice was terribly hoarse and he was on the way to the helicopter to be air-evac’d to Phoenix. But it was good to talk to him nonetheless. With a heavy heart, I decided I wasn’t going to follow him there.

That night in bed, the guilt started to set in. I knew my family would understand why I wasn’t going, and that it wasn’t out of a lack of caring. But still, I couldn’t tell if I was making the right choice. Was I being selfish? Should I have figured out some way, any way, to be there with my dad who just suffered a heart attack?

At that moment, even if I knew it wasn’t going to be the last time, I just wanted to see my dad.

I cried myself to sleep that night.


I haven’t been confronted with death in a long time. The last time someone I knew passed away was my grandfather on my Mom’s side, and that was so long ago I don’t even recall how old I was. The last time I can remember death affecting me was when I came home from basketball camp to find that my Mom & Dad put the dog that I grew up with down to sleep. I was only 16 then. The only other death I can recall was the death of my childhood next door neighbor and best friend during elementary school, but at the time of his death, we had been out of contact for around 10 years. It’s not that I was sad, but at that point, it had been too long for me to be affected like this.

It hadn’t even been a week into the new year and I’ve already been confronted twice.

I’m trying to wrap up this post but I don’t know how. There’s so many things that I feel like I could say. I could talk about what we as a family could learn from this, or how I believe that it will probably take most of us following our father’s path before any of us even begin to consider dealing with our problems with obesity or diabetes or smoking or whatever else. I could talk about the changes that I plan to make to avoid being my dad, a man who neglected his own diabetes for nearly 20 years, or I could talk about the fact that I had pizza for two meals over the weekend is proof that I haven’t learned anything from this. I could talk about how thankful I am that I have Wac with me to give me motivation and purpose, or I could lament the fact that it’s all lip service until I actually put forth the same effort she does. Part of me wants to take my family to task and ask what changes they’re going to make to avoid the issues my dad is now having, but part of me knows that I’d hardly be practicing what I preach.

In Jordan’s death, I’m able to witness the incredible sadness from a life taken too early. In my father’s flirtation with death, I’m able to see exactly what I’d become if I didn’t make changes. And I’m affected for sure, but do I feel affected enough to make the changes I need to in order to prevent my own death for as long as possible? I don’t know.

That might be the scariest part of all of this.