The remains of my 2013 Eagles NFC East Champions shirt after emergency medical technicians needed to cut it off my body while resuscitating me on Thanksgiving 2015. The lesson here is: always dress nicer than I did for Thanksgiving.
I almost died. For the past two weeks, every once in a while I stop on a dime and remember that. I almost died. Not 'I could have died' or even the close cousin, 'I nearly died'. But I almost died. That realization is one, you would think, that would be constantly on what's left of my mind two weeks after I almost stopped breathing long enough during a medical emergency to almost die. But there are actual periods of normalcy, when I forget. I get angry over something stupid. Or maybe even not stupid, but something worthy of anger. I'm reading the paper. I'm yelling, "Goddammit!" each time the Flyers give up a goal. Then, BOOM: I almost died.
Again, this may seem simplistic: of course your life is irrevocably changed, 24-hours a day, after you've almost died. But it isn't all the time. There are stretches were you forget. Then, though, there are moments. Like the first weekend afterward I thought: gee, would today have been my funeral? Would it have been tomorrow? Where would The Wife [the hero of this tale as you'll recall] have planted me? Here or in our ancestral home to the East? When would the kids have gone back to school? When would The Wife have gone back to work? Would my Mother have remained here to help The Wife for a few weeks? What would Christmas 2015 have been like without me? 2016? Christmas 2025? Would anyone even notice by then? Should I even expect them to? Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, my friends.
By 2025, the kids will be in their early-to-mid-20s, The Wife would no doubt be The Wife for someone else. I would like to think my parents would still be here; so I'm sure they'd think of me. I would think the kids would always 'remember' me, but the sound of my voice, or details about our daily interactions? No, I think those would have faded by then. The Wife is still young and beautiful with many, many years of life remaining. She must move on. I would think that Christmas 2025 would see her with her husband, and their blended family of adult children. I'd be nothing but a photograph in the guestroom of The Wife's new home [a room where no one goes].
My friends? Well, through no one's fault, most had largely passed out of my daily life before Thanksgiving 2015. Like all fortysomethings, we had our own lives, traumas, joys, stories. Living 350 miles away from most of them meant that going out for a beer to shoot the shit just couldn't happen. I think initially there'd probably be pangs of guilt among my friends - not that they did anything wrong; just that life had gotten in the way for all of us and that now we'd never again get together like we used to - even though it'd been almost ten years since the four of us had been able to do that anyway. But, now that I was dead, that possibility of all getting together was gone. Some of my friends would go into action: they'd be up here every other weekend taking the kids out for a movie, or helping The Wife get the house ready to be put on the market. A few - assuming I was planted East - would make monthly pilgrimages to my grave for a while. Eventually though, life would take over. The shock would ease. And I'd be remembered, certainly; but more as 'the first to leave' among our Fab Four than for anything else.
These are the things I think about during the day. My life since July has been a downward spiral at great speeds. I certainly hadn't planned for July; I most definitely hadn't planned to almost die. Now, those two events are conjoined, however, and leave me with much too much time to think and sit and watch the wheels go round and round. I don't know what happened to me on Thanksgiving. Probably will never know. They tell me it most likely won't happen again but they can't guarantee it obviously. Nor can they guarantee that - if it does happen - The Wife will be there again to perform CPR and keep me breathing adequately enough so as to keep enough oxygen going to my brain to keep me alive until the EMTs can get there. There are so many, many, scenarios where that medical 'event' could have occurred when I would have been alone. And I would have died. It just happened that it occurred in the evening when people were home; it just happened that The Wife checked on me before I'd stopped breathing completely. What happens if the medical 'experts' are wrong and there is a next time. And I'm alone? And I die? I feel like a ticking time bomb.
I need to do something with my life to make sure that - if that does happen in a year, five years, or ten years from now - there is a definite sense among my survivors that I made the time post-Thanksgiving 2015 mean something. That I lived. That I didn't squander the second chance I got. Yes, it' a shame he's really dead this time, but Goddammit that guy really lived the hell out of life in those extra years The Wife gave him.
It's figuring out how to make that happen that keeps me up at nights now. I don't know what my 'something' will be. A new job? A new career? Permanent unemployment that permits me to write the great American historical fiction novel? A series of dead-end jobs that bring in a fourth of what I used to earn but which subsequently reduce my stress by three-fourths, thus making my remaining days more happy [the Flyers' notwithstanding]?
I almost died. But I didn't. I lived. Now, how do I make sure that's what they say about me when I really am gone?