If I Should Die Before I Wake

Suddenly I was awake and surrounded by a host of doctors and nurses in the middle of the night.  Pain in chest and both arms.  Fear and fascination competed within as awareness began to crystallize.  One doctor said to another, we need to anesthetize before we shock.  Ventricular tachycardia was in control of my heart rhythm, reducing pumping capacity to a minimum.  Will I survive or is this my last memory?  There was no shining light or other-worldly phenomena.  The calm and kind face of one physician had the effect of calming me and is my last memory of this event. Then it was morning…

Fortunately, I was in one of the world’s best cardiac care facilities, recovering from a heart attack three days prior.  Doctors told me the struggle went on for 18 minutes while they salvaged life from a wounded heart.  Grateful is a feeble expression of what I feel about how this team of people, in the midst of chaos, did all the right things to preserve a life.

On the best medications, with world-class medical processes followed, amidst giants of cardiac care, I did not expect to be touring the valley of the shadow of death.  When I went to sleep the night before, all seemed well.  Then fate injected a surprise ushering me to a place I’d never been.

Why?  Where is the opportunity in this crisis?   When will my last moment come?  How should I then live?

The reality in this valley of death is whatever you’ve done is on record, can’t be changed.  So if your record is this man or woman cared and shared, kudos will likely come.  If how people will remember you is self-centered and indulgent, nothing can change that view.

Without falling into the trap of self-adulation or self-effacement, I am on a mission to lift more than I need to be lifted, to love more than expected, and to celebrate the good and joys of life more than ever.

No big change, just a different level of commitment emerging from this experience – an audit of my mission complete with compliances and discrepancies.  I am fortunate to have had such an experiential audit and then live on to improve from its findings.

It is all upside if any reader can somehow vicariously join me in elevating life for those you influence.


Joe Klinehamer
Joe Klinehamer
Excitement in life comes from learning, loving, and dreaming. Capturing the essence of past learning, tuning consciousness to exactly what is happening now, and taking a beachhead in the future is the dream. Seeking perfection but settling for excellence is the journey toward both meaning and value creation. Change the world not with one extraordinary Nobel-achievement but with many mini-impacts that add to mighty. My parents placed a mantle on me early in life: Never Satisfied. It captured a DNA drive to know more, do more, be more. Not a blessing or a curse but just who I am. Recently a friend said with edgy respect, that I have a restless mind. In a stroke of early luck, the college program I elected was a BA in Natural Sciences and Math, requiring all the heavy science and math stuff but also significant courses in philosophy, literature, art, and history. In the first quarter of life science and math were prominent tools. but in the following two quarters, the right brain has negotiated a great deal with the left brain to expand opportunities to learn and produce. For example, in management and leadership now 40 years, the art side of life including EQ and other Qs has moved to the battlefront. Just to think is a privilege and challenge, but to push into new territories of insight, such as in how to lead people and be led by them, is exhilarating and a never-ending discovery path. With the remaining one hundred words, I was born in Pennsylvania to German Irish parents, reared in a conservative religious environment, and attracted to science in part through the magnetism of NASA. While earning a BA and MS in Chemistry, I met the love of my life Carol and now partner for a half-century. Our two children and four grandchildren while being the recipients of our love and care have helped us become and grow as adults – learning laboratories where mutual growth occurs as love meets the diversity of generations. Today I seek to challenge tomorrow aggressively.

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