}

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Unexpected reminders

I didn't exit August 7, 2016.
There are plenty of times when something will unexpectedly pop up and remind us of something else, not just things we’ve forgotten, but also things that, for whatever reason, haven’t been at the front of our thoughts at that moment. Those reminders can come from anywhere, even social media.

This morning I logged onto Facebook, as is my routine, and I had one of those “Memories” alerts. It was a photo our niece had posted two years ago of the birthday lunch we had for her mum, Nigel’s sister. I’ve always hated that photo because I look terrible in it. That’s the day I could have died, but didn’t.

I could’ve shared the photo on my own timeline, but it’s possible only our mutual Facebook friends would have seen it. So, instead, I said this:
Two years ago today I could have died, but didn't. A few days later, I was in hospital getting a coronary stent to make sure I stay alive. While I had a very rough year last year due to the side effects of betablockers, things are back on track now and I can carry on with the progress I was making before they put me on that drug. Onward!
I blogged about that 2016 day last year, on the first anniversary, but I hadn’t planned on saying anything this year. The main reason for that is simply that I wasn’t even thinking about it. I’m busy with work and other commitments, sure, but it’s also not something I think about very often. Instead I think of the day a few days later when doctors saved my life.
What happened is more important to me than what didn’t.

So when that photo was right there in front of me, I had no choice but to remember. The fact I hadn’t planned on talking about that day is kind of fitting, since I hadn’t planned on anything that happened in August, 2016, either. And yet, here I am—which is really the whole point, isn’t it? I’m here.

I left a comment on my Facebook post that was quoting from my post last year. I called it “the tl;dr verison” of the post:
"The message here is simple: First, pay attention to your body, and take action when something isn’t right. Second, talk to your doctor! Doctors are amazing people, but they’re not mind readers: They can’t always know to look for things that could be wrong if we don’t tell them how and what we’re feeling. We’re not “bothering” them by telling them about something that doesn’t seem right—we could be saving our own lives. Your doctor is your ally in this goal—help them help you."
And that’s my takeaway from that day, and the events that followed soon afterward. Yes, I could have died two years ago today, but I didn’t. Instead, I took action (with Nigel’s coaching) that changed everything. And that means I can mention something I wasn’t going to until I had one of those unexpected reminders.

The ultimate irony here is that there’s one sort of thing that pops up all the time as examples of unexpected reminders: Something relating to a friend who has died. It might be a birthday reminder, comments we traded, our “Faceversary”, whatever. But when it happens, I think about a friend I’ve lost. And since that day two years ago, I’m keenly aware that if things had gone differently, someone else could have experienced an unexpected reminder about departed me, the sort of thing I experience about my own lost friends.

I think we need unexpected reminders to help keep us from becoming complacent and taking even a single day for granted. One day, inevitably, our days will run out. My goal is that when my days run out, people who knew me will smile when they get an unexpected reminder. And I wouldn’t have thought about any of that today had I not received my own unexpected reminder that two years ago my days could have run out, but didn’t.

I hope I never forget. I have that goal still to achieve.

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