I was just a kid out of college working my very first “real” job and my boss called me into her office. I nervously opened the door and saw her talking on the phone. She motioned for me to come toward her desk.
Strangely, she looked somber. Awkward. She stopped talking and handed me the phone.
“It’s your mother.”
I grabbed the phone and wondered why on earth she would be calling me at the office. After listening to some of the scariest news of my life, I handed the receiver back to my boss.
“My dad,” I began…
“Had a massive heart attack. He needs open heart surgery, tonight.”
My boss hung up the phone, grabbed my hand and looked me straight in the eye as I held back the tears. She said, “Heather, he will be just fine. They do this every.single.day.”
With that exchange I left her office, packed up some of my belongings from my desk and drove two hours to the hospital to see my father.
All I wanted to do was see his face.
All I wanted to do was tell him I love him.
All I wanted to do was reassure him that he was going to get through this. That we were going to get through this.
Once at the hospital and seeing my father being prepped for surgery I didn’t have time to fully process what was really happening. My entire family surrounded him at the foot of his bed.
We tried to crack jokes. We smiled nervously and we prayed as we waited for him to be wheeled into the Operating Room.
In the midst of this drama I was desperately trying to reach my boyfriend. Earlier that morning he said he was going to try and make it to the hospital to be there with me, at least in time to see my dad before he was wheeled in.
I sat in front of those elevator doors for hours, watching them slowly open and close with no sign of him. I envisioned him running toward me with a bundle of flowers, whisking me right into his arms and reassuring me that this was going to be ok.
But I never received my bundle of flowers that day.
Nor did he ever show…
As my father remained in the Operating Room for hours, my family and I paced the floor, drank tons of coffee, quietly held hands and prayed. At one point, I stepped away to call my boyfriend once more to see if maybe, just maybe he was on his way at that late hour.
His roommate answered. He told me my boyfriend was at a bar drinking with some of his buddies and not sure when he would return.
I hung up the phone.
It was over.
Soon later we received word that my father’s surgery was successful but nothing could have prepared me for the way he looked as we saw him for the first time in the ICU. I saw tons of tubes strapped around his body hooked to different machines making all sorts of noises. His neck, throat and mouth were also covered in tubes and his eyes were closed. Nobody should ever have to see a loved one in that kind of state and nobody should have to endure that kind of pain.
As I stood beside his bed, I told him that I loved him…and I managed to tell him that it was over with my boyfriend.
I swear, I think I saw my father smile as I spoke those words…
To this day, my father will tell you that everything in life happens for a reason; he truly believes he was meant to have open-heart surgery to show me that I was with the wrong man. He told me that his heart was not the only heart that was saved that day – mine was, too.
And you know what?
He’ll tell you even to this day that if he had to do it all over again for his little girl, he would.
In a heartbeat.