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.