The Death of a Close Friend

Before I could comprehend the enormity of it – he had gone, forever.  At the weekend, he was, as usual, riding his beloved bicycle – then I received a phone call from him on a Wednesday evening to say that he had chest pains and wasn’t feeling well.  Jumping in my car and driving the two miles to his house, I found him lying on the floor, unconscious, from a heart attack. The emergency services were called and they tried resuscitation – but it was too late. He was just 65, and to all intents and purposes, a strong, healthy man, still running his own carpet business. However, in fact he was anything but healthy.

It was so sudden. One moment he was here, and the next, he wasn’t.    He has left behind him a huge void both in my life and in the lives of all his many friends, family and business associates. Two days ago, we attended his funeral. It was for all of us, quite unreal. The fact that someone so full of live, so vibrant a personality – could be taken in the blink of an eye, is something that has caused me profound shock and sadness, and a reminder of the fragility and shortness of life. These days that have followed, I ask myself again and again, whether his untimely death could have been avoided.

Signs and Symptoms

Did he have symptoms beforehand, that he had ignored?  The answer to that question is ‘probably yes’.  He had always been a very fit man who cycled hundreds of miles for charity and had even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain , a few years back. But he had apparently been warned that his cholesterol level was very high and had neglected to take the statins that his doctor had prescribed. About six months ago, he had also been diagnosed as diabetic but had failed to take his medication. Why he had acted that way is inexplicable, except to say that he obviously did not understand the seriousness of his condition, if left untreated.  For some reason, he was in denial. The warning signs had all been there for over a year, but tragically were ignored.

This event, that has so affected me, personally, has made me wonder how many others may be in a similar situation. It is so easy for us to ignore the warnings.  You may not be experiencing chest pains but you may be experiencing other signs of being unwell but refuse to have them properly investigated. Realistically, it is only ourselves who can take responsibility for own lives.  I am not suggesting that every time we have a pain, we should call the doctor.  But we do need to look after our bodies – and our minds – and when we experience unexplained pain, or feel unwell, for longer than a few days, then we should seek professional advice.

As we know, prolonged stress can also be a contributory factor to ill health, and too often we think we can ignore it.  We think that we know best and it will go away.  But often it doesn’t go away and instead it causes us harm. There are occasions when, like high blood sugar or chest pains, it can lead to serious, and sometimes, life-threatening damage to our health. We all sometimes ignore the warning signs in ourselves or maybe in our loved ones, or work colleagues.  It is essential that we all learn to take personal responsibility for our bodies and our health. We need to follow advice and eat less fat, sugar and salt. We need to exercise and not go everywhere by car. We human beings are very good at putting things to one side, ‘I will do it tomorrow’…’another time.’  Well, in some cases, that might be OK, but in others it might be too late.

My friend died because he didn’t fully understand how fragile is life. Living and dying are two sides of the same coin and it is frequently our own actions that determine upon which side that coin falls.

If this strikes a chord with you, please take professional advice.

Key Points

  • We need to appreciate always the fragility of life
  • Unexplained pain or other symptoms need investigation
  • Our own actions can sometimes determine our destiny

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

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