This past week my father celebrated his 91st birthday. This birthday is certainly an unexpected milestone. In the Spring of 2001, my father had a significant stroke and we were told that he likely wouldn’t live another 100 days. The stroke took his speech and as the doctor put it; “Your father has no appreciation for his right side”, which meant that he had no sensation or motor function on his right side. He was in a coma and on life saving machines. The prognosis was bleak. But here we are, some 12.5 years later, my father plays poker, pool, bakes bread and lives independently (with minimal help) in a retirement community.
So what happened? How could it be that he went from having 100 days to live to thriving 12.5 years later. First of all, you should never believe your Dr. when they’re giving estimates of mortality. They have absolutely no idea how to accurately predict someone’s death. All of their reasoning is based on past experience, but there are always exceptions to their “rules”. Secondly, you can plain and simply never underestimate the power of a human being and the human spirit.
His recovery literally took a village. He was blessed with some amazing doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, caregivers, receptionists, friends, family, on and on and on. But what it mostly took is his effort, focus, determination, belief and a significant expectation that he could and would recover. He had to believe. He had to look past his current situation and trust that life would improve. Seeing how he overcame an enormous number of obstacles has been one of the gifts and lessons of his journey. It wasn’t easy and it is still overwhelming at times. He had to battle not only physical limitations, but feelings of depression, loss, sadness and anger.
My mother used to say “I can’t believe how well your father is doing”. I used to respond that he was doing so well because he expected to do so well. He wakens in the morning expecting to do well. He believed he would do well. His generation, the World War II generation, is associated with the phrase “keep calm and carry on”. That phrase was used to inspire and lift the British people prior to anticipated bombings during the war. That’s what Dad has done the past 12 years; He kept calm and carried on. He did what he needed to do. He didn’t talk about it. He didn’t read about it. He didn’t bitch about it. He didn’t complain about it. He did it. He believed it. In spite of all the contrary evidence, he believed.
What are you believing and expecting today? What could you overcome today if you believed and expected a better result waited on the other side of that obstacle? Keep calm and carry on my friends!