Monday, February 20, 2012

"These Dreams"

For the last several years, the third weekend in February has been an emotional one for me. There's a couple of reasons for it. On one hand, it's a somber weekend, and on the other, it's a weekend of rejoicing and reflection about where I once was, and how blessed I am to be where I am now.

Yesterday evening 11 years ago, my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching the local evening news. I was still a little ticked because Dale Earnhardt had wrecked out of the Daytona 500 on the last lap. He was my guy - one of my heroes, and I hated losing the Daytona 500 as much as he did. It is NASCAR's Super Bowl. Plus, I knew it meant he was starting the season off in a hole in regards to the points championship. I wanted that eighth one badly. In fact, I had turned the race off as soon as it was over I was so perturbed. I didn't think that much about the wreck. It didn't look that bad. Then, as we watched and listened to the sportscaster, he showed a clip of NASCAR President Mike Helton's news conference where he said, "After the accident on turn 4 of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt." I could not believe what I had just heard, and I didn't want to believe it, either. Dale was ... gone ? No way. I'd seen him walk away from much worse than that. I didn't sleep that night hoping to wake up the next morning and it all be a bad dream. But ... it wasn't. My hero was indeed gone.

NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, taken by offic...
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For years, I had not been able to understand Elvis Presley's fans' reaction to his death. Now, unfortunately, I did, and even though I wasn't a fan of Whitney Houston, I felt bad for her fans this past week, because I could relate. I had nothing against Whitney. She had a great voice without a doubt. It was just I was a fan of hard rock and metal. I just didn't get into "pop." It is a shame she died so young.

I saw a blog post over the weekend where the author wrote that it was time to let Dale go. She also said that "time heals all wounds." In my opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth. Time may heal some wounds, but not all of them. Just ask a parent who has lost a child at a young age, or someone who lost a spouse after decades of marriage. Time may heal wounds to a certain extent, to a point where they are manageable and one can live with them, but it doesn't heal all of them completely.

I have found that sometimes the best way to heal is to try to focus on the good memories. For instance with Dale's death, I've thought about those 7 Winston Cup Championships, the 1998 Daytona 500 victory, and the races he won when I was there in the stands with my dad. I've focused on the things I learned as a boy from watching him and reading about him, such as the importance of family, hard work, setting goals and working hard to achieve them, and most importantly, never giving up. Plus, I'll never forget that big grin and those sunglasses (picture at upper right). Those are the things you hang on to. I think that's what Dale would want.

The third weekend is February is also a time of remembering the beginning of the end of my battle with heart disease. Five years ago this weekend, I wasn't doing well at all physically. My lungs and abdomen were filling with fluid again. My legs were stiffening as the fluid congregated in them, too, making it uncomfortable to walk. Monday, the 19th, came along, and I felt worse. On Tuesday, the 20th, my wife had to spend the day going to see clients. I felt horrible, was short of breath, and scared to be left alone. So, I went and rode around with her all day. That evening, we had a dinner function to go to. I was feeling even worse, but I made it to, and through dinner, but I was ready to head home at 8 P.M. I knew I had to call the doctor the next morning, and I was expecting they would put me in the hospital to begin some IV diareutics.

It was dark, cold, and rainy as my wife drove us home. At 8:30, about two miles from the house, my cell phone rang. I looked at it but didn't recognize the number. I started not to answer it, because I just wanted to go home, try to get through a warm shower, and then go to bed. I was exhausted.

Even though I didn't want to, I felt compelled to answer the phone. When I did, it was Angie, a nurse from St. Thomas Hospital. She asked me where I was and what I was doing. I said I'm headed home. She said, "No, you're not. Get down here to the hospital. A heart has become available for you." Even thought we were surprised it had happened so quickly (I had been listed for exactly one week), my wife turned the car around, and we headed to St. Thomas.

Once we got there, They put me in a wheel chair and rolled me back to ICU where they began prepping me for surgery. They finished up, I told my wife that I loved her and would see her later, and they wheeled me back to the operating room where they did some more tests before beginning the transplant. That was just before midnight on February 20, 2007. Shortly after midnight, on February 21st, they began the heart transplant surgery, and as they say - the rest is history. The Lord has brought me from being the guy who in October 2006 was told he had a year to live, if he was lucky, to being the guy that will be 5 years post-transplant tomorrow. He is good. I praise Him for giving me more time. In 2007, my "game clock" was winding down fast, and I had no timeouts available. Now, I wrapping up overtime #5 and about to start #6. I love overtime !!

Myself, my wife, friends, and family will celebrate my 5 year anniversary next weekend. I will reveal to them at that time what the surprise "project" is that I've been working on since August. I will share it with you, my blog readers, next Monday, February 27th. Today, we will begin the one week countdown to the announcement with the last Music Monday of this month.

The song and video I've chosen for today's wrap-up of "Heart Month" is "These Dreams" from Heart's self-titled album, Heart, released in 1985. Interestingly, "These Dreams" was the first #1 song of Heart's career in 1986 and the album it was recorded on is the band's only #1 album ever. I hope you enjoy the video. I have embedded it below in this blog post, or you can watch it by clicking here.

I chose today's song because it just seemed appropriate. Just as Dale Earnhardt was driven by his dream and goal of being a champion race car driver, I'm driven by the dream of making a difference. My dream is that the "project" I'm launching next week will be successful and, most importantly, be a difference maker. I am confident that it will be because a lot of hard work, planning, and prayer has gone into it. Plus, the Lord has blessed me by surrounding me with a good team to work with. I'm really looking forward to getting the talking out of the way and getting on with it. We will do that here next Monday. All the mystery will make since at that time. So, please don't miss it.



These dreams go on when I close my eyes,
Every second of the night,
I live another life .....

P.S. I must take a moment to thank my friend Alice for the idea for "Heart Month." Thanks a bunch, Alice !!
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