5 years ago, I stood in the parking lot puffing on what was to be my last cigarette.

I was nervous. My heart was racing and my mind spinning. The words I hear moments ago rattled me to the core. I snubbed the cigarette and walked through the Emergency Room doors and admitted myself.

The day before was a Sunday and I woke up feeling a little weird, like when you sleep funny and you feel all scrunchy and numb. “It’s fine”, I thought, but it wasn’t. Throughout the day, Lisa and I did chores, hung a curtain rod, ate our meals, but the “weirdness” I felt stayed all day.

The next day, the numbness across my right side was still there and yet I still kept it to myself. I called the doctor’s office and explained how I was feeling and they urged me to see the doctor, soon, like now soon.

I sat in the examination room as a young nurse placed the blood pressure cuff on my arm and started pumping. And pumping. And pumping. I felt like a tube of toothpaste when you try to get the last little smidge to come out. Then she did it again. And then again on the other arm. She had a forced faint smile on her face. She left and soon returned with the doctor in tow. And the process was repeated.

“Is everything OK?”, I asked. “Well your blood pressure is dangerously high, it’s 220/190”. I glanced at the machine, 230 was as high as it went; oh, this isn’t good I thought. It wasn’t, it was a full-on Stroke.

This was my second “wake up” call, and now I heed its calling. I do less of the stuff I don’t want to do, and more of the stuff I want to do. My priorities have shifted and my values have changed. I take time to enjoy the moment for this may be my last. I fret less about the past and try to stay in the moment with a clear path in front of me. I care less about what the Jones have and more about the blessing I have.

From that Monday morning 5 years ago, I have not had a single cigarette; I quit cold turkey. That has given me the strength to know that I can accomplish what I truly want. It has given me the courage to push myself in ways I could have never imagined and also the perspective of appreciating what I do have – my wife, my kids, my friends, my life, my health, and my humble accomplishments.

I still love a glass of wine and I think wine has been part of the healing process. Wine brings people together, to engage with others, to share food and stories and I thank you all for being part of my life; for this is the most important human experience.

Namaste