Three years ago I went in for emergency triple bypass surgery. They called it a "high-risk surgery" -- 95 percent blockage in my left artery, 70 percent in my right and 50 percent in the main one. I could have died, but was spared. All this out of nowhere. One day I think I'm fine and the next day my life is on the line and my chest is sawed open, giving surgeons an apparently dim crack at saving my life. I remember the two-hour ambulance ride to the hospital, wondering if I would get a chance to speak to my family. Especially my two boys. Wondering what I would say, if I could talk with them again.
I prayed hard for that chance. To say goodbye, to say I love you, to give some suggestions and advice about love, marriage and life -- and things of the spirit. Nothing wakes you up faster than the uncertainty of whether you will ever get to say another word to those you love, to your boys such as, "I love you so much -- you have brought such unspeakable joy to my life."
On December 21, 2010, I got that opportunity. Like someone handed me a ticket that said, "You get to live one more day." Or, "You get a second chance to say things that matter. Ponder your heart and tell them what matters most. About marriage, your future wife, the life you will lead with her."
So, here goes. To my two wonderful sons -- some wisdom about life and marriage. About love and your future wife.
1. Embrace vulnerability and feelings, even if they are uncomfortable. It's the only way you'll ever understand women, especially your wives. It's the only way you'll understand yourselves.
2. Jump into all the mosh pits of life you can find. If you can, have a strategy for getting out.
3. Don't talk to other men in public bathrooms, especially at the urinal. There's something weird about that.
4. Don't smoke or do drugs. But live out the highs you're capable of -- because you're you.
5. Take your sweetheart on special dates you come up with all on your own. If you plan them unexpectedly, you'll knock her socks off. And likely more than that.
6. Do what you can but never restrict your vision and slight your dreams. You're capable of so much more than you know.
7. Cry at sappy movies with your lover, your wife. She'll think you're so cool. Really.
8. Your worth and value are stationary. No one can alter them. Your actions cannot alter them. Bank on that. Your confidence is one of the greatest gifts you'll give her.
9. Curb some of the immature habits of childhood. Like picking your nose in public or having to be first in line. But if someone catches you, just smile. It's OK to be a kid at times.
10. Choose your own path, from your own chosen center. The virtues and character you intentionally work so hard to create will continue to explode. I mean that -- explode.
11. Find wise male friends that talk about more than sports. But always make your wife your best friend.
12. Stand in complete awe of God. He gives you life.
13. Let go of anger. Embrace love boldly. Practice forgiveness. And when you hurt your lover's feelings, set your pride aside, take her in your arms and say, "I'm sorry." Sometimes even if you know you're right. It heals the deepest wounds.
14. If you fail and flounder and get off track, I'll never think less of you. I could never love you less.
I pray that you will find a wife who is your soulmate and best friend. When you do, hold onto her for dear life -- but not so tight she can't fly on her own. Remember what you have to give her and give it to her -- your mind, your heart and spirit so large. She will relish your presence and know she has married a true man. Be men who fight against the ripples and currents that hold back love. Who fight against the darkest shadows. Who create blueprints and music that flow from unrestrained hearts and end up touching the lives of those who know you. Especially your wives.
Today I'm alive. Thank God I'm alive. I have one more day, one more chance to tell you some things on my mind and heart. I hope to have many more in the days to come. I may not be a perfect father, but I treasure you in my heart and soul in ways words can't express.
And so if you remember anything, remember this:
No dad could love you more.
Follow Doug and Leslie Gustafson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@authentictrue