My family of five almost became a family of four a year ago today. A normal day turned into one of the worst of my life. March 31st is a day I don’t like to think about much, but I’m choosing to open myself up to the feelings I have tried to ignore for a year in order to give you a glimpse of what the past year has held for me.
A year ago today, I almost lost my dad.
It should come as no surprise that I wouldn’t be eager to talk about this; discussing a loved one’s near death experience is something I wish no one ever had to endure. But alas, I come before you now and say that my dad nearly died.
Let me talk medical for a few moments. My dad had a rare PICA (posterior inferior cerebellar artery) aneurysm—rare as in you have a 0.5% chance of having this type of aneurysm if you have a cerebral aneurysm at all—rupture, or as the CT scan showed and one doctor put it, explode. The ruptured aneurysm made blood pool around his brain, that being a subarachnoid hemorrhage. My dad’s chances of survival were very slim. There is a stat which states that aneurysm patients only have a 15% chance of making it to the hospital alive. In PICA aneurysm patients, 2/3 of individuals will experience fatality or permanent disability. Needless to say the odds were not in my dad’s favor. Unbeknownst to everyone, God was doing a huge series of miracles for Papa Mark. While I could write a book on all the miracles performed that day, there Is one that all of them revolve around: my dad is still living.
I used to dread when someone wanted me to recount what happened to my dad. It’s not that I didn’t want to tell of the wonderful miracles or inform people, I just was so exhausted from telling the same life-altering story nearly everywhere I went. While my dad was hospitalized, I had a bevy of folks come up to me and want updates, news, sidebars; it was so overwhelming. I kept thinking to myself, if I’m still working through processing all of this, what makes these people think I’ll give them a time of day with an update basically saying he is still the same? I contemplated making a frequently asked questions brochure to hand out to people when they’d ask me a question about my dad. But as time has gone on, I’m understanding that without March 31, 2015, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It has shaped me in many ways.
Looking back a year later, I have three clear things that I’ve taken away from this huge life experience my family went through.
- Relationships become strengthened in hard times. My family has always been very kind, loving, and compassionate to one another—whether verbally acclaimed or through actions. As my brothers and I have grown older, we all went on to do our separate things in life and didn’t see each other much. But when we all spent time in the hospital by my dad’s side, I felt myself getting closer with my siblings in a way I never have before. I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable; if I needed to cry, they’d understand and try to cheer me up, if I was having a hard day they’d make me laugh. If I needed anything, they’d get it for me. We talked more and really leaned on each other. I’m so thankful that I was able to strengthen my relationships with my brothers and my mom as well. It took a terrible thing for us to get closer, but I’m glad that in the end we are all closer.
- Perspective becomes clear in hard times. Before I even knew what an aneurysm was, I was so hyper-focused on school. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, get the highest grade point average I could, and impress those around me with my intelligence. School took over my life and in an unhealthy way, I pushed myself as close to the edge of the cliff as I could to achieve what I felt I needed to do. I wasn’t focused on relationships, living in the moment, or enjoying life. I was preoccupied with the future and I stopped at nothing to make sure I had a road map of my life figured out. But when life throws you a curveball, any road map you draw out will never have an alternative route for the unplanned and unexpected. I slipped far behind in school, I didn’t think I would pass with sailing colors, and I was convinced my grade point would be screwed up for the future. It was a month or so after March 31, 2015, that I realized how pathetic it was of me to be so caught up in my academic success. I knew school was an important part of life that needed to be done. But I let it take over my life, and it made me miserable. The thing that made me feel good about myself, made me so angry because for the first time, I was struggling in it. Falling behind and idolizing school doesn’t mix well. I realized that I needed to live in the moment, not worry about the future so much, and know that whatever happens to me academically, I’m going to survive. Being in college now, I still have to constantly remind myself of that. I feel like I have a much better perspective in life because of where life took me and my family last year.
- Time becomes precious in hard times. At any moment, I could have lost Papa Mark. God had a different plan, and while I am so incredible grateful to Him for that, this experience taught me a huge lesson about my faith. We only have so much time on the earth; the next minute of our lives is not guaranteed. I can live my life for myself and not giving a care about what’s going to happen to me. For the longest time, that is how I lived. But when I saw how quickly the situation with my dad took place, I realized, I don’t have the time to live recklessly. I’ve learned to pursue God daily and see what it is He wants me to do with the time I am given. I have faith that God will take me as far as I need to go—I don’t feel the need to worry about the future as much anymore, for in due time it will come. Time is extremely precious and I know better than to take it for granted now. I’m going to live each day with purpose and determination that I can leave a mark on this world.
So here my family stands, one year later. My family survived the hard times, my mom persevered through all of the trying situations, my brothers grew closer with the rest of us, and my dad rebuilt from where he left off. God has been so great to my family; he brought us through one year and I trust that He’ll guide us through so many more.