My husband Esteban had a serious heart attack this morning.
Esteban had been suffering from labored breathing over the past few days, but we’d both shrugged it off: He has asthma, and the temperature has been hovering around zero.
He’d also been having some muscle cramps — a calf here, a bicep there — but we wrote it off to an electrolyte imbalance.
So when he complained this morning that his chest felt tight, I wasn’t too worried. I massaged his pecs absentmindedly and commented that his muscles didn’t seem all that tense.
“Do you think it could be your heart?” I asked, only half-serious. Little did I know it was his heart.
To make a long story short: I drove him to the emergency room. His doctors found a severe blockage, implanted a couple of stents, and removed a couple of blood clots. Then they sent him up to the intensive care unit to recover.
Only afterward did I learn how badly it could have ended: “That was a real ‘widow-maker,'” one of his nurses told me. But — to my extreme relief and gratitude — Esteban lived. He’s gray and sweaty, but he survived.
I’ve heard that when people have near-death experiences, their lives flash before their eyes. Tonight, I can say that the same thing happens with a marriage.
When I came home from the hospital this evening, little vignettes from our marriage flashed before my eyes: Esteban’s socks were in the middle of the living room. The remnants of his typical bacon-and-eggs breakfast littered the kitchen. His shearling coat was carelessly draped across a chair. Everything was exactly as we’d left it when we dashed off to the hospital.
Then it hit me: What if I’d lost him today?
His limp, discarded clothes suddenly became a powerful metaphor for his absence. Our house seemed hollow and empty.
But I didn’t cry for very long: I didn’t lose him today. We dodged the bullet; we got a second chance.
And for that, I’m so grateful. So, so grateful …