Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Harry's Lesson

We're coming up on a rather sad one-year anniversary, the death of our dear friend, Harry. 

I don't want to write about it on that day - which is sad enough - but I wanted to mention his story.  I'm not going to hold onto this anniversary, but I didn't want this first one to pass by unmentioned, since something may be learned by it.  (Personally, we much prefer to celebrate birthdays, than to remember sad occasions.) 

I could go on and on about what an amazing person Harry was.  My husband and I were so very lucky to have known him for so many years.  Harry was a kind, intelligent gentleman, with a heart of gold and a face a sculptor would envy.  He was quite tall, dark-haired and uncommonly handsome - happily married, the father of two, and best friend to his faithful dog.  His laugh was infectious.  His spirit, patient and gentle.  His humor, legendary among those who knew him.  Harry was fiercly loyal to those he loved.  And, yes, his full head of thick hair was the envy of every male friend over 40. 

Harry was also morbidly obese, majorly morbidly obese, at just over 500 lbs. (at his heaviest). 

He had some relatively minor mobility issues from time to time, but still got around.  He easily side-stepped every little health issue that came his way.  Life was good.  His heart was strong.  His constitution, ironclad.

Then, it got even better.

Harry found the strength to lose weight.  He was a "slow loser," but over the previous three years, managed to shave more than one hundred pounds off his body!  He did it thoughtfully, carefully, although inconsistently. 

After all, old habits are hard to break - as we all know. And Harry loved a good restaurant meal.  Who doesn't?!  Harry used the "slow loser" mantra often, and seemed perfectly fine with the pace at which he was losing weight.  As he often pointed out, at least he is losing!  And he "has to live, after all."  It sounded fine to us.

Harry looked amazing, and was enjoying life more than ever, as he continued to gain flexibility, easier breathing, and all the rest that goes along with losing weight.  Harry was active and happy and so very talented. 

That all came to an end, overnight - literally. 

Without any warning whatsoever, our healthier Harry (who just had a check-up a few weeks earlier), passed away.  He was only in his 50s.  Everyone who knew him was completely stunned by the news.

His beloved wife and precious children were devastated.  No one had a chance to even say good-bye.  We were told his blood pressure destabilized, and the heart soon followed.  The doctors couldn't save him.

Apparently, from what the doctors said, Harry was indeed healthier ...

but not yet healthy.   Harry was still morbidly obese. 

I can absolutely guarantee one thing to you:  Harry didn't want to die. 

Had he a glimpse into his future, his "slow loser" excuses would no doubt have ended, as he truly got serious and focused more on what needed to be done.  But, since he was well on his way to a healthier Harry, he thought he had bought himself time.  And maybe he did, just not as much as he thought. 

The routine doctor appointments and test results gave no warning.  Sure, he was obese and was cautioned to lose the weight - but haven't we all been likewise cautioned?  And Harry was doing that, albeit slowly.  

Harry didn't get to start the new year with his wife, and celebrate 2010 with their children and grandchildren. 

It turns out, Harry's lesson is that the journey alone won't necessarily protect everyone from devastating results. 

Procrastination, and excuses can hurt us, perhaps not necessarily so, but the possibility exists.  And routine scans and blood draws don't always show what is about to happen.  Not every decline is slow and with warning.  I don't like to think about that.  Who does?  But the possibility has to be acknowledged.

No one - no - one - saw this coming, not even his ever-vigilant and amazing doctor.

I learned, it isn't enough to just be on the journey with good intentions of eventually getting there, making a little progress every few months.  We have to work to reach those goals.  We have to be honest - with ourselves, at least, if with no one else. 

Today, Harry's family is doing great!  And his precious grandchildren are getting so big!  It is a shame they are too young to remember him.  They were everything to that man - the future - and cherished like none other.  He doted on them and was so proud.  I think he'd have given up his favorite foods in a heartbeat, if he knew he'd never live long enough, otherwise, for his grandchildren to even remember him.  The truth?

Harry could have done better.

This week I am asking myself, "Can I?" 

I've done well with my dieting, but could I have done better?  I'm not perfect (who is?), but there was definitely room in my diet and (so far) almost non-existent exercising for improvement. 

So, in 2011, my daily question to myself will be:  Can I do better?

I'm (barely) no longer morbidly obese, but I am severely obese.  I am attacking my mini-goals.  I am still not out of the woods, but for every 5% I lose, I gain ground on getting healthy. 

I am certainly much healthier than I was last year at this time, but, as the doctor said about Harry, I'm not yet healthy.   

That is the ultimate goal - good health.  And no matter how good or how poorly I do on this journey to get there, certain facts do not change.  Being obese (whatever the category) is not healthy.  Being overweight is not healthy.  Lack of routine exercise is not healthy. 

I'm improving all the time, but the journey is not over until I reach the destination.

CAN I do better?  You better believe it.  I can do better.  And I will.


  1. Harry. I knew a "Harry" same type of situation, well sorta but a good thought to remember.
    I like that CAN I do better? Yep, me too. I did do good this year but yes I could of done better, I could of reached my goal if I had one less month of screwing up. Lord willing I will have 2011 to get healthy and learn to stay that way.
    Thank you for sharing Harry. Thank you for sharing his story. Time for that thinking cap, time to think of what next year will bring.
    Take care Ann. Sleep well. God Bless!!!

  2. A very inspiring story to make me want to give it my all. Thank you for sharing. 2011 is going to be a phenomenal year. I can feel it. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing that with me. I've been going back and forth about the fast vs. slow losing, but that just really made a lot of sense. Thank you!

  4. Bless your sweet heart....
    True story. Yesterday,
    I didn't want to drive down a dark street in the country.
    I thought - sheesh! I really don't want to die!
    Wow! But different somehow to eat ice cream to death.
    Tragic, really!
    Great Post, Ann.

  5. Wow, what a story and lesson. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. So much to learn from Harry's story! My brother who is in is 50's was told he was too heavy and he spent a year eating better, exercising and lost around 30-40 pounds. Then he still had a heart attack. We learned that if he hadn't been eating better, the heart attack would have taken him instantly. So it did buy him some time. NOW is the time to change our lives. NOW is the time to make better choices. Too many sad results and loved ones if we don't... :(

    I miss my mother who died at age 56 due to heart disease as a result from obesity and diabetes. I just can't put my own kids through that. Life is too precious.

    Thanks for the reminder, Ann!


  7. Thank you Ann. These are stories that are worth sharing and remembering.

    I can do better!!

  8. Thanks, Ann. What a great reminder that all we can control are the choices right in front of us and that tomorrow is promised to no one. I need to do well today.

  9. Awesome Post! Very timely. I needed to hear that. Thank you! I have been struggling with that mental "it's life or death importance" attitude and it is resulting in slower loss. I need to get on with it already.

    Very Inspirational Post!

  10. Ann, great post. Very moving and a good lesson for all of us. I'm going to link to it in my post on New Year's Eve.

  11. Ann I am sorry for the loss of your friend. This is a tragic story that makes me sit up and think. I believe this has been your best post since I started following you, You just made me think Get it together Cinner and I thank you for that. we will do it. Thanks, all the best in the New Year, here is to us getting Healthy! hugs.

  12. Great post! Lesson for us all. We don't know how much time we have! If I can make great choices today, in order to see my grand babies grow up, then I better make those choices!

    Keep focused!!!

  13. First I have to say I am so sorry for your loss! It is heartbreaking to lose someone in life. Thank you for this post, it is timely and such a great reminder of what the goal is. Health! It is the one thing in life you don't get second chances on. Thanks!

  14. That is a very sad story and I'm sorry for your loss. I would encourage you to exercise in the coming year, it makes a tremendous difference to your body and health. Happy 2011.

  15. Wow what a story and it has made me really stop and think. You see I am a slow looser myself and I have lost 53 lbs this year, but it has taken me 10 months to do it. You are right I could have done better. You just picked up another follower for the new year.. Have a happy one.

  16. That was a great post. Thanks so much for sharing his story with all of us. Love that question: can I do better? Great post, Ann!