Why My Dad’s Heart Surgery Is A Difficult Memory

July 17, 2020 — Leave a comment

Six years ago today my dad had major heart surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.

Things would never be the same.

I might have shared this before, but it’s on my mind today, so I thought I’d do so again.

When my dad’s surgery happened, it was scary, but it went SO well. For us, at least. The repair was successful. I remember how difficult it was for him to be stuck in that recovery room for so long. I remember when they finally released him and he cried on the phone with me because he was so happy. He wasn’t really a crier. Kind of a case of, “like father, NOT like son.” lol I remember him actually saying to me, “I don’t even know why I’m crying, Ryan!” I told him, “Well, you had MAJOR HEART SURGERY and have been in the same room for over a week…it makes all the sense in the world to me!” I remember how many people shared their love and prayers and how happy we were for him to have another chance at life.

Looking back, though, it’s easy to see how things changed.

There’s a part of me that feels like it was the beginning of the end for my dad and that makes me really sad and angry.

I remember when he called us all in before his surgery to tell us to take care of each other. To be nice to each other. That we would be fine if something happened. Part of me thinks that he was sure he wouldn’t survive the surgery and that he had come to terms with it. That he was saying goodbye, not just in case, but because he thought it was time.

Then afterwards, during his recovery, he just couldn’t seem to comprehend this new life he was living. He didn’t seem to know what he was allowed to do and what would be too much. He talked to his brothers and sisters frequently about his awareness of his own mortality. He couldn’t comprehend how others who had major heart surgeries were able to “live normally” without constantly thinking about how their heart could stop at any moment. After his suicide, we found out through the note he left that he had been living with pain and fear and “wonder in his chest” for months.

I will always regret not questioning him more when he’d respond to my “How’s it going?” with “You know, gettin’ a little better every day.” I know he wanted to believe that, though, and I’m sure some days it was true. So, me questioning more probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but…I still regret it. It’s just who he was. He was a strong man who didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. Which eventually became too much for him to bear. At least that’s the way I see it. It got to the point where he couldn’t handle the pain and wonder and didn’t want to burden anyone else, so he took control of the problem in the only way he thought made any sense to him. I know he didn’t want to and that he felt terrible about it because he said so. But, it was also what he felt he had to do.

And that’s why, when I see those Memories on Facebook about his successful surgery, it’s bittersweet. Because, for me, it was the beginning of the end. And like I said, that makes me sad and angry.

I was actually thinking today, I never saw my dad’s scar. I don’t know what made me think of it. I just really wish he was around to show us. Maybe that’s weird, but I can just imagine him making stupid jokes about it. I’d take that over having to write this post any day.

So…that’s it. That’s how I’m feeling today. I know it’s a lot. Thank you for letting me share it. Thank you for caring about me and allowing me to process. I’m sure I will continue to do so as the years stretch ever onward. And I want you to know, I appreciate you.



P.S. If you’re feeling scared or in pain or embarrassed or like a burden…that’s ok. But please, reach out to someone for help. Even just one person you trust. It can make all the difference. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. Love you.


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

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