Monday, June 29, 2015

Dream Sideways and Strokes

Memorial Day is a holiday whose origins are not clear anymore. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces.

However, today's citizens celebrate the "beginning of summer" not honoring military service. People BBQ, drink, gather with family and friends, and get their first sunburn. It is the American ritual.

This year on Memorial Day, two families were beset by tragedies.

One person I barely knew. The other person, I never knew at all.

But, our three stories are entwined.  

Years ago, I went to college with a man I knew slightly. We would pass in the hallway and say “hello.” I kind of forgot him other than a vague memory. We reconnected of Facebook, and we would “like” things about our families.  On Facebook, we would say “we should have lunch. Soon.” 

He died of a heart attack on Memorial Day. He was 55 years old. He was a year older than me.

That same day, a man I never knew had a massive stroke. He Is 52 years old and a doctor.

What we had in common is Facebook.

I found out about my college friend's death on Facebook.

I found out about the doctor’s stroke because his wife is a REALTOR®, and a friend of mine told me (on Facebook), “You should reach out to this couple because of your strokes.”

I went to my friend's funeral. He had such a full life filled with friendship, family, talent, and helping other people through mentorship.

I felt guilty being there. I really did not know him well. I wish I had. But, it is too late.

At his funeral, someone recounted an time when Mark Boylan (my college friend) helped a young woman who was devastated. She said her “dream is shattered.” Mark said something like, you might need to change your dream. New opportunities will happen.

And then, Mark said “Dream sideways.” Change your course.

I think about Mark’s advice a lot. “Dream sideways.”

Dr. Timothy McHugh is a family medicine doctor in Meridian, Idaho and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Saint Alphonsus Medical Center. 

I visited Dr. McHugh several times at Saint Alphonsus in Boise where he is recovering from his stroke. 3 1/2 years ago I had two strokes. I was in Saint Al's for 18 days. When I visited Tim, I looked around my old room. 

Our stories and backgrounds are similar in some respects: Highly educated and driven, politically active, supports many causes, never smoked, well read, about the same age, etc. 

Every stroke is different, and Tim’s stroke affected his left side. He is left handed. My right side is affected.

Now, he is starting his difficult journey of strokes and recovery. He and his wife have joined the very exclusive club that no one wants to join: Stroke survivors and caregivers. A shitty club with no rules.

However, he will recover. His life will never be the same. It will be different. Who knows what “different” will be for him?

After my strokes, going to the bathroom alone in my hospital room was a huge victory. A high profile powerful CEO, lobbyist, and elected official reduced to trying to wipe my own butt alone. But it was a start.

My dreams are different now. Dr. McHugh’s dreams are different now.

I am dreaming sideways. He will too.