It was quite a confusing and frightening day. I was a 13 year old boy who believed that bad things never happened to good people who obeyed God. I was too young to understand why this terrible thing was happening. In fact I still don’t understand why it happened and I may never truly understand. All I really knew was that my dad was in critical condition and my mom was not her usual calm and collected self when she talked to me on the phone.
The day was supposed to be exciting, as we were going to go to church and then head to a Phillies spring training game. However, my dad woke up and his chest was bothering him more than normal. He thankfully decided to head the hospital to get it checked out. I being the selfish person I can tend to be was just worried that we would miss the Phillies game. My older brother, two younger sisters, and I waited as patiently as we could for my parents to come home. We “knew” everything was fine. It has to be, right? We are “good people” and God protects us “good people” from bad things.
My mom eventually came home and when I saw her face, all of the sudden everything didn’t seem all right. She told us that dad needed some type of procedure done and that she was going to drop us off at friends’ houses. She said we might be there for a while, maybe overnight, and she had to head back to the hospital. When I heard “maybe overnight” I felt a jolt, like a train ran into me, and then emptiness. “Maybe overnight” meant this could be bad, real bad. My parents never had let us stay overnight at a friend’s house. It was their one golden rule that never had been broken and up to this day still hasn’t. If we might stay “overnight” then my invincible dad could be in serious trouble.
I filed into our big, ugly van along with my siblings and we headed off to our friends’ house. The ride was quiet for the most part, besides a couple questions from us regarding my dad’s health that my mom could not answer. Eventually my brother and I were dropped of at the baseball fields in Maitland because our friend had practice. Life just felt weird, it felt abnormal, there seemed to be so many questions that I needed answered but couldn’t even ask. Was my dad going to be ok? What procedure was he even having? What happens if my dad dies?
My brother and I spent the next couple of hours at the baseball fields. I watched my friend’s practice for awhile and then fielded a couple ground balls on my own. Baseball was already becoming my escape from reality and I was fine with that. I thought I needed that. When on the field I could forget all the other intimidating and bad stuff that was going on. When we headed back to my friends’ home I was feeling a little better, but everything was about to change.
We arrived at my friend’s house, played outside, and then we headed inside to eat. My mom called and I started trembling with fear. I desperately needed to hear that everything was going to be okay. Scared to death, I put the phone to my ear. My mom told me that my dad had a heart attack earlier this week and that he needed open heart surgery. Silence… wait what? My dad had a heart attack? Doesn’t everyone who has a heart attack die?
She told me that he said he loved my brother and sisters and I and that he was so proud of us before he went in for the surgery. I didn’t cry or really feel much more after hearing the news. I felt numb and lost, very lost. For the rest of the night I played video games. The video games were distracting me from having any feelings, fear, or thought regarding my dad. This was going to become a habit for me. I was going to keep my mind completely occupied so I wouldn’t worry. It will be good for me. I can drown away everything scary.
However I eventually couldn’t hold back my thoughts and before I knew it they came roaring back to life. Is my dad in the midst of the surgery still? How bad is this? What if he dies? What will we do? Will my family and I be able to ever live without my dad? I decided that if I lost my dad that I would not be able to make it, that I would shut down, that I would basically die in the inside. So for the first time I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I prayed for healing, for help, for God to please keep my dad alive. Time passed by quickly but everything seemed blurry. Before I know it is 11:30.
My mom calls my brother and I again. She tells us that the open heart surgery is over and as of right now my dad is doing ok. However, my dad is still in critical condition and if he survives there is a long long road to a full recovery. My mom is going to pick up my brother and sisters and I and take us home. She will be here at 12:00. My aunt is coming down from Philadelphia tonight and will be with us in the morning. I’m so tired that I’m not processing any of the information that my mom is saying. All I hear is that my dad is still alive. A sense of relief and peace washes over me like a warm blanket. I didn’t realize it then but now I know that this was the first time that day that I had felt God’s presence.
The next couple of days I was a miserable person. We were not allowed to see my dad until Wednesday and those three days felt like three years. I spent those first three days after the surgery repeating the cycle of numbing my mind with video games, worrying about my dad, and then breaking out in tears. I missed my dad and really wanted to see him. Eventually Wednesday rolled around and we were all allowed to visit my dad in the hospital. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. When I walked in to see my dad who had overcome a heart attack and open heart surgery within the last week, I immediately broke down into tears. He looked frail, and he had tubes coming out from him everywhere, but he was alive. I visited with him for around 15 minutes, but then I had to leave. It sucked.
Fast forward three years, I am now 16 and my dad is perfectly healthy. We have a great relationship. My dad has taught me how to be a Godly man, and what a great father looks like. Through adversity and pain he never doubted God. He always was there for his wife and kids and stayed faithful to God. He showed me how a man should carry himself and what things in life are really important. I really do not know what I would do without my dad. He is my hero and my role model.
I’m doing pretty well too. Yeah, nothing is ever perfect, but I am enjoying life right now. My whole family is healthy and I can’t ask for much more than that. Sometimes I become angry with God and question His plan. I still do not fully understand why my dad had to get sick, but I can rest easy knowing that God has his reasons. And through my dad’s health problems God has taught me lots. He has taught me how to rely on Him and his grace. Before this incident I believed that God was only there for me when I needed him. God also taught how to trust his plan and follow it. I’m a sinner and tend to want to follow my “better” plan, but God has slowly shown me that my plan pretty much sucks. One last thing that God has taught me is how to live life to the fullest. So corny, I know, but it’s true. Everyday with your family is a blessing and I shouldn’t take it for granted. My dad’s heart attack made me realize that at any moment God can take away a loved one.