In 1984 Chicago released the album Chicago 17 and the second single, Hard Habit to Break made it to number three on the Billboard charts. I was in eighth grade and remember crying more than once with these lyrics, “being without you takes a lot of getting used to”, running through my head. Oh that Peter Cetera . . . he was so wise. Such a sage to a 14 year old. Sigh.
One of the lines that sticks out the most in my memory is the third line of the song: “You don’t know whatcha got until it’s gone.” I realize these words were not original to Peter and the boys and, depending on your generation, you might attribute them to Joan Jett or Ral Donner. No matter whose voice goes through your mind when you think them, I’ll take this time to admit that I hear Peter Cetera singing them regularly when faced with losing someone dear to me.
“Oh, if we had just spent more time together.”
“Oh, if I hadn’t said no to that invitation.”
“Oh, if I had just said nicer things and made more of an effort.”
“You don’t know whatcha got, . . . ” boo hoo hoo.
Tuesday, April 15 began like any other day and I found myself at work with my legal pad and markers drawing my daily to-do list like any other morning. The phone rang and it was my sister telling me that she was “supposed to stress that nothing is wrong yet, but daddy is on the way to the hospital. . .” another call beeped in at that moment. It was my mom and so I switched over to hear her saying, “Becky, there is nothing wrong yet, but I am in the car following daddy to the hospital in an ambulance. Daddy was grilling chicken for the luncheon I have today and his heart was bothering him and he thought we should call 911.” The next 24 hours were unlike anything I could have prepared for.
It turns out my daddy had a heart attack in the ambulance and they rushed to put a balloon in a clogged artery as soon as he arrived at the hospital. Tests showed his heart was in bad shape and bypass surgery would be necessary. More tests were scheduled. I was sent home from work. I went ahead and bought a ticket to fly to Birmingham – the doctors weren’t talking positively about the prospect of surgery.
Daddy coded on Wednesday morning and they brought in a crash cart and revived him. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. My brother bought a ticket to return to America from the other side of the planet. I must admit I was preparing myself in case Daddy didn’t make it through the weekend. More than once I contemplated him being ushered into God’s presence on Easter Weekend – just my daddy’s style. . . dramatic and glorious. The Lord had a different plan.
The pictures of dad’s heart showed it as week, damaged by the attack, and with arteries too thin to sew easily. People all over the world were praying as they wheeled my father into surgery and when the doctor came out three hours later, he told us that the heart he saw when he opened daddy up was not the heart in the pictures. It was much stronger and the arteries were thicker and healthier than he had seen. He acted like it was the pictures that were deceptive but I tell you what, I believe it was God, the mighty Healer, who changed my daddy’s heart and made it ready for surgery. I have seen Him work this way before and believe H did it again.
Daddy came through surgery without a hitch and was back at home in less than a week. His recovery has not been flawless (he was back at the hospital today with an Arrhythmia) but it has been steady and we are grateful. There is no room for people to stop praying but there is reason to speak “hallelujahs” and give glory to the Father.
On Wednesday, when I got the call that daddy had coded and they were stabilizing him, etc. I thought of Chicago and the sappy tune from my childhood. I couldn’t help it.
You don’t know what you got until it’s gone
And I found out a little too late
I distinctively remember stopping the mental soundtrack and thinking how grateful I am that I know what I have . . . I didn’t find out too late. I have wonderful and Godly parents who have loved me well and we have a great relationship. I have a daddy who has given his life to telling the lost world about the God who loves them and the Savior who died for them. I have the confidence of knowing that the moment my daddy leaves this world he will be in the presence of the Almighty.
I still wanted to get to Birmingham but it wasn’t to deal with unfinished business. I wanted to be an encouragement to my father and support for my mother. I wanted to live this next event without regret – aware of what was happening and what the Lord was doing. I walked away from the most emotional week of the decade with a silly little realization: if you know Truth, Peter Cetera doesn’t look so smart. Not a sage . . .just real sappy!!