An Open Letter…and Cheers to 3 Years!

Dear Family, Friends, and Anyone Else Who Will Listen,

Today marks 3 years to the day when I almost:

  • Never got to hug or kiss my wife again
  • Never got to celebrate another anniversary with my wife again
  • Never got to go out on a date night with my wife again
  • Never got to kiss my kids, read them a story, or tuck them in for bed again
  • Never got to enjoy a slow walk down the beach with my wife again
  • Never got to watch my kids grow up and teach them about life again
  • Never got to be there for my kids birthdays, school concerts, sporting events and other seemingly insignificant but incredibly important life events again
  • Never got to be there for my kids when they got hurt, sad, or just plain needed Dad
  • Never got to play soccer, hockey, golf, softball, poker again with my brothers and best buddies
  • Never got to snowboard with my wife, kids, nieces, nephews, or brothers again
  • Never got to enjoy holidays with family members again
  • Never got to call my Mom and Dad and tell them how much they’ve meant to me, and how much I love them

I could literally go on with this list for thousands of lines, but these are some of the most impactful to me as I sit here thinking about the last three years. What I ask of you, is to think about these things in the context of your life. If you’re anything like me, just the thought of not being able to experience these things makes me emotional. For me, it’s extra emotional because I was on the cusp of having all of this taken away from me in literally the blink of an eye three years ago today, at the age of 33.

Beyond just thinking of these things in the context of your personal life, what I’m really asking you is to make sure that you don’t ever have to think about these “Never Agains” every day as I do (at least not until you’ve lived a full life). I have made many life changes over the past three years, including exercise, diet and mental health. I’ve had people ask me how I’ve been able to maintain the changes that I’ve made, and my answer is simple… it’s because I’ve been given another chance to live life (see list above), and given the choice between a Coke & a McDonalds hamburger or kissing my wife and kids each day is the most simple decision I will ever make.

I am much more in tune to other people and their decisions as I go through life now. I don’t look down on them, or you, or anyone else, but I am very aware because of my experiences. For example, I was at the gym the other day when two middle aged men were talking next to me. One of them said that he was trying to get back to his diet and exercise routine (sound familiar?), but that he has struggled ever since having kids 8 years ago (sound even more familiar??). It’s a typical story, right? But what I wanted to say to that gentleman was that the exact reason that he WASN’T working out and dieting properly, is exactly the reason that he SHOULD be….HIS KIDS! He went on talking about how it was due to their sports and activities that he just couldn’t find time to get to the gym, or how he would eat fast food because he was rushing from one kids event to the next. What he is missing is that he may not have the opportunity to do those things if he doesn’t take care of his own health first.

To some extent, I was that guy before. I made excuses regularly why I couldn’t eat healthy, couldn’t exercise regularly, couldn’t manage my stress and the demands of work. I ate fast food regularly, drank soda (or Pop for my Michigan peeps) multiple times per week, laid on the couch instead of going for a run, and let my blood pressure rise over the smallest of things. I did all of that, until I woke up one day with the reality that I had heart disease and that I had to change.

A very wise man (my Dad) taught me from a very young age that “everything in life is a choice.” When he would tell me that as I was making a bad decision as a child I hated it, but I truly believe that it’s true, even more so today than ever. I choose a salad over a burger, because I want to tuck my kids in for bed each night. I choose to find time to exercise even when work is busy, because I want to be there with and for my wife as we continue to build our beautiful family and life. I choose to meditate and work on reducing my stress, because I want to play soccer and softball with my brothers and friends. I choose water over soda, because I want to watch my daughter walk down the aisle one day and watch my son become a man.

Are the healthy choices that I make today easy…you’re damn right they are! And they would be for you too if you were faced with your own “Never Agains.” Am I perfect, absolutely not!!!! But as I sit here today three years removed from my heart event, I can think of no better way to celebrate this heart-iversary than to share my experience with YOU. I want my experience, pain and knowledge to be the reason that you never have to think of your personal “Never Agains” in the way that I have had to.

I am very grateful for you taking the time to read this letter. If you ever want to talk about my experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Sincerely,

Mark

And as always…

“Dream as if You’ll Live Forever, Live as if You Only Have Today!”