I got the call from my mom Sunday.
She had just dropped dad off at the Emergency Room.
Droopy left cheek. Trouble chewing. Slurring words.
An ambulance was rushing him to a larger hospital.
I rushed too, packing a bag and driving the hour to meet my mom at her house.
The rest of this week has been a blur.
Good news moments.
Bad news moments.
A roller coaster of emotions.
We got 2 short visitations a day with dad and all the waiting rooms were closed due to COVID, so mom and I spent most of our time at her place.
I'll never forget the low point.
We were at their kitchen table and dad had looked horrible when we left the hospital.
The technical details from CT Scans and MRIs were positive, but he had lost so much cognitive ability it was hard to watch.
It just didn't seem like dad would make it.
My mom and I made a pact.
We would do two things.
We'd be brutally honest about what we were facing.
And at the very same time we'd have unwavering faith we'd make it through, no matter what happened.
We cried so much in that kitchen that day.
But we were together.
We had each other.
I ran across those two rules years ago. They helped me so much this week.
Combining brutal honesty with unwavering faith is powerful.
Jim Collins called thinking in those two ways The Stockdale Paradox.
You can see him describe it powerfully in less than 3 minutes here.
It's worth the watch.
That mindset has gotten me through a lot of tough times.
And it did this time as well.
My daughter Josie and I drove to the hospital the next morning, meeting my mom.
Dad was much better.
It turned out the anti-seizure medications dad had been given right before we left the day before had impacted him more than we had realized.
His improvement has continued and and as I write this on Friday, he's resting at home.
It's going to take a lot of physical and speech therapy, but there's a chance he'll get back, close to 100%.
I know he's exhausted now.
I'm exhausted too.
But even more so, I'm feeling grateful.
This week gave me a gift: clarity.
I couldn't help but think a lot about the Top Five Regrets of the Dying, a book by Bonnie Ware.
That book summarized all she learned from guiding 1000s of patients through their final moments.
(You can get a quick overview in this article.)
Bonnie found five regrets came up often:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I thought about my dad a lot this week.
My mom just as much.
My wife Becky. My daughters Gabby and Josie. My friends, colleagues and clients.
Through it all, I felt grateful.
No matter what happened to dad, I knew he had no regrets.
He lived a life true to himself.
An alcoholic, he had his last drink August 4, 1984.
Shortly after that he got a Masters Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling, finishing his career helping thousands of people overcome addictions.
My mom has lived a life true to herself too.
And as I thought about me and my family, I was flooded with all we've done to live a life true to ourselves. To spend time together. To have strong relationships.
To work hard, but as a way to help others.
To express our feelings.
To invest in amazing friends.
To let ourselves be happy.
This week was hell.
And yet I'm so grateful for it.
Here's my clarity.
I'm grateful that the people I love are living a life they love.
I'm grateful for all the support I got this week: friends, clients, colleagues. People rushed to help. They prayed. They let me know they were thinking of me. They jumped in to help any way they could.
I've been overwhelmed with support.
Most of all, I'm grateful my dad is still here to have a positive impact on those around him.
Especially my daughters.
One day at a time, he's trying to make the world a little better.
I know you are too.
We've all been given a great gift today.
So let's live.
Let's get after it!
Let's all ask ourselves...
What can we do to make the world a little better today?