In a moment, everything changed. It was our second trip to the emergency room in 48 hours. In an instant, we went from believing Jay had a muscle spasm in his neck, perhaps coupled with a touch of the flu, to realizing we were dealing with something much more serious.

“The CAT scan showed something concerning,” the doctor said. “We need to transfer you to another hospital…”

In the minutes that followed, we learned that Jay’s muscle spasm was actually a subarachnoid hemorrhage. In laymen’s terms, this meant a vein in Jay’s head had sprung a leak, allowing blood to flow throughout his head and brain. The enormity of the situation became clear when we learned that Jay wouldn’t just be transferred to another hospital, he would be admitted to the ICU.

In an instant, his future was suddenly very uncertain.

Would Jay need brain surgery? Would he be able to walk or talk when he came out of surgery? Would he survive? What if he doesn’t survive…?

After the doctors left the room, with tears in my eyes, I went to Jay and sat on the side of his hospital bed. I was trying to hide how worried I was, but we both knew Jay’s future was uncertain. We talked about how unprepared we were….is our will up to date? Do you know the password to my computer? We talked about how we knew better, yet we had fallen into the trap of living life as if we might die someday, instead of living with the knowing that someday it really will be goodbye forever.

Were we standing on the edge of that moment? Neither one of us knew. Tell the kids how much I love them and what awesome kids they both are. If I die, I want you to get married again. When you live as if you will live forever, conversations like these are unimaginable.

Ambulance transfer between hospitals.

Jay being transferred to St. Louis University Hospital. He was grateful that Josh (the EMT riding in the back with him) made him feel calm and comfortable.

At around midnight, an ambulance transported Jay from the emergency room in Highland, Illinois to the ICU at St. Louis University Hospital. Before he got into the ambulance I asked Jay to put his stubbornness to good use. “Do everything in your power to get through this,” I begged. He promised me he would.

Jay kept his word. He went on to spend 6 days in the ICU, 2 days in a private hospital room, and a yet-to-be-determined number of days recovering at home. He was stubborn, but even more, he was grateful, positive, and inspiring. He thanked every nurse, doctor, and aide he came in contact with. He fought out the days of excruciating pain. He endured IV’s, and restless nights, and a level of discomfort he had never known before.

It worked. Jay’s prognosis is good. His doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Yet, we both know things will never be the same. We simply can’t go back to the way things were. We can’t go back to pretending that we have forever.

This experience changed Jay. It changed me. Most importantly, it changed us. We look at Jay’s medical event (as I like to call it) like a wake-up call. It’s a chance to reassess and make sure we’re on the right path, that we’re using our days here on earth to live the lives we were meant to live. That’s the gift of what happened to Jay, and for that we are both incredibly grateful.

There’s a song on the radio right now with a line that says “We’re not promised tomorrow.” This song is my reminder. None of us are promised tomorrow. And the truth is, we never can know when we’ll run out of time. It’s scary to think about. It’s scary to accept our own mortality, and to consciously accept that someday we will say goodbye to our loved ones. But what’s even scarier is the possibility of arriving at that moment unprepared, wondering…did I say I love you enough? Did I spend my time with the people who matter the most? Did I share my gifts with the world? Does my family know my passwords? I invite you to choose a different outcome.


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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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