It was only a week or two ago that my husband and I had a conversation about our mutual concern for friends who maybe aren't taking as good care of themselves as they should be. We're in our late 30s and our friends are on both sides of 40; old enough to notice health effects of bad habits, but still young enough to make significant changes.
We talked about not knowing how to express our genuine concern without coming across as judgmental or trying to suck all the fun out of life. Nobody wants to be told they need to lose weight, to exercise, to stop smoking once and for all, to cut down the drinking. Nobody wants to admit they are a danger to themself.
Sadly, my doomsday fears were fully realized this afternoon when I learned that a high school classmate of mine died of a heart attack last night. He wasn't even 40 years old yet. I couldn't fathom that Generation X is already "there," in the Land of People Having Heart Attacks.
Ironically, my classmate WAS attempting to take care of himself; he suffered his heart attack while running. He'd been in the Navy since just after high school, so he was no stranger to physical conditioning. But it happened anyway. And now his wife has lost her best friend, his kids have lost their dad.
His friends from junior high are already rallying together, figuring out how to establish a scholarship in his name, planning a service at the veterans' memorial park in our hometown, determined to honor him properly by promoting organizations that had fostered him growing up.
We weren't close friends, I only knew him as the goofy guy who sat next to me in 9th grade biology class, the guy who thought the McKenzie Brothers were hilarious. But after reading post after post on his Facebook wall, tributes to friendship and expressions of admiration, I know that his goodness ran deep to his core, and his generosity reached far. "He cared more about the people around him than for himself," said one of his closest friends. "By living a selfless life, he left a legacy that we can all learn from."
Take care of yourselves, Xers. I mean REALLY take CARE of yourselves. Don't let fear keep you away from visiting a doctor. Don't keep turning your back on family trends in medical histories. Realize that there's no time like yesterday to get back on that exercise program. I don't want to read any more tributes. Not this year.