Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Fragile Lives

It's rare that I turn a client into a friend, but I did it with Larry.  Larry owns a small printing shop in town and, after representing him for a while, I decided to make him a friend. 

Larry has a buoyant and appealing personality.  I'd frequently stop by his store and talk for hours simply because I enjoyed his company.  Larry is 45 years old, unmarried, and has been caring for his elderly father.

I went to the hospital today.  Larry just had a heart attack and a stroke.  The stroke paralyzed his left side and caused some permanent brain damage.  The extent of the brain damage is unknown and his recovery will be uncertain.  Fortunately, Larry can think and speak, but they doubt he'll ever be able to walk again.  His face droops on the left side which may or may not improve.  He faces six months to a year of difficult physical therapy.  Nobody can predict how far he can come back.

Larry cried when he saw me.  His brother said he's depressed at the drastic change in his life.  I believe that when Larry saw me see him in this new diminished condition, it reinforced the realization that his life will never be the same again.  His future will be severely limited by these physical conditions.

I spent over an hour at the hospital until Larry got tired.  During that time, he cheered up a bit.  I tried to focus his attention on the positive things still in his life.  I didn't show him my emotion which was profound sadness.  Larry, previously so buoyant and happy, is now a shadow of that man.  He's smaller, weaker, his head is misshapen and he can't move half his body.  I searched for the Larry I knew in this stricken body and found him, but that person is trapped in a limp shell that no longer responds to his brain.  And I sensed a deep malaise in him that is as understandable as it is sad.

My point in telling you this story is this -- savor your health and good fortune.  Enjoy the gloriously normal life you have.  We can, in a blink, lose that.  Appreciate your health while you have it.


  1. Shy, what a poignant post. I'm so sorry for your friend. Recently, we've had a couple of men at our gym who were seemingly in excellent health suffer tragic illness (not fatal). They both worked out vigorously and they both seemed to really take care of themselves. One had a widowmaker heart attack and the other appears to have a stroke, but the doctors are saying it's MS. Your post brought to mind what my mom and I used to talk about during her final year when she knew she would die from lung cancer (she was only 56). So much of the things we get worked up over mean so little in the grand scheme of things. Life is about relationships, not accomplishments. At the end of the day, my mom didn't care what she did or didn't accomplish at work or how far her career progressed. She also didn't care at all about how many things she had. What she cared about was the people that she loved and savoring every minute with us. Whenever I lose my way, I try to remind myself of this. We speak so much about following our passions and while there's nothing wrong with that, ultimately it's PEOPLE that have meaning, NOT those passions. Thanks for this Shy....we all need this from time to time. Said a prayer for you and your friend. Hugs to you both....~Serene

  2. This is a good reminder. My mom has always been sick in some way or another. Her health has a number of declines in the past few years, and it's so hard no longer living with her. I fear for her health, but I am trying to be thankful for her healthy, sober days. They outweigh the bad days now, and it makes me grateful.

    I'm sure your friend really appreciated you being there. It can make a hard time harsher when you're facing it alone.

  3. Wow Ralph, I am sorry to hear this, and so shocking for Larry at such a young age. It IS a reminder to love every precious moment of live. I always just assume I will at the ripe age of 98 or 99 just not wake up one day. You never know whats just around the corner.

    Thanks for being there for Larry, I know for sure he is moved by your support and friendship!!

    have a great weekend!! xoxo J

  4. You're amazing. Good vibes to your friend, Shy.

  5. You are a wonderful friend, and Larry is so lucky to have one like you in his life. You are so right. We never know when our lives will be completely uprooted, perhaps for the worst. It's important to surround ourselves with people who will always bring us up, no matter what. You do that.

    I am so sorry to hear this news, and I hope the best for Larry. Both of you will be in my thoughts.

  6. Love you! Even though he's changed and it can be hard to deal with, I hope you will remain a faithful friend to him.

  7. I will, Freeda. I've already made plans to visit Larry regularly and assist his family during the long days ahead. It will be hard for them and they can use all the help they can get.

  8. I'm so sorry. What a terrible thing. Larry is so lucky to have you as a friend. You are such a dear loving person.

    And thanks for the reminder. Cherishing health is something I need to remember.


  9. So sad - At this time and into the future it is his friends and family that will help during the really hard times - When my mom was diagnosed with Leukemia in June last year, I advised my dad to take one day at a time - this helps you to be grateful for the good days and not waste good days, worrying about the bad days...and if you have kept the good days positive - it gives you strength to cope with the bad days better....We tried to take each day at a time until November, when my mom sadly passed away....BUT, I have found that this advise helps even in every day life...Suddenly, my horrid week with my oversensitive person does not seem so bad....Sending love and prayers to you and Larry and all the people who are going to need to help him...Lots of love P.S. something else that helps is to try to make seeing him a habit - every Thursday for example...then at least you know that you will not get busy and suddenly realise "Oh shucks it is six weeks since I last saw Larry"....

  10. I like L-M's last suggestion as well. It's something I could use. And I think Serene and I need to connect; too many similarities there with our moms.

    I'm very sorry to hear about your friend. Glad he is alive, though. Because of the suddenness of all the changes, he might even have times as he's adjusting to his new way of life when he wishes he weren't, but I sincerely hope that he will move out of this pit of depression somehow over time...I know supportive friends like you will help. And I for one hope he decides he will walk again. Even if realistically he just can't, I think the trying is what matters (if he wants to).

  11. Such an important message. More often than not people take their health for grated. 'Good health and body is earned' ... requires hard work.

    Sorry to hear about your friend. I hope he finds a way to cope with the adversities. At least he has good friends like yourself! :)

    ♡ from ©

  12. I'm so sorry your friend Larry is having such a difficult time. He will need his friends more than ever, and I know you will be there for him.

  13. I am so sorry to hear this.
    But, he is young. He can get better. He will get better, therapy does help.
    Family and friends make all the difference. You can make a difference.
    I had someone in their mid 70's get a stroke on his left side and today he walks. He still goes to therapy, but he walks and gets around and uses a computer and although his left eye also lost some sight due to the stroke - he can enjoy life. He is almost 80 now.