A Mulligan

For those of you unfamiliar with the term mulligan, it’s when a duffer is given a second chance at a swing after a wildly errant golf shot.


Who doesn’t relish a second chance, especially when it comes to the grand game of life itself?


This Thanksgiving marks the 3-year anniversary of my husband’s & my life’s mulligan.  The season that sets a precedence of gratitude seems an especially fitting time to celebrate our second chance together & share our experience with you.


At the ripe old age of 16, my husband Peter discovered me (a chubbier version of me, I might add) before I had a chance to discover myself. Since we married young (I was 18, he was 26!), our relationship was a laboratory of ongoing skirmishes to figure out the rules of engagement for our marriage.


It took us a long time to go from romantic idealists to part-time adversaries to full-time allies.


But we had enough conviction in the strength of our bond to risk enough fights (some fair, some not so fair) over the years to work out the bumps (pot holes, sink holes) on the road to a nurturing partnership & a life together that reflects our joint vision.


As you can imagine, when you “share a bathroom sink” with someone for 30 years, you tend to get used to having them around. You know each other so intimately that being with your spouse is like you being with you; only better. You journey through life together, sharing each other’s joys & burdens, doubling the good times & halving the bad.


Funny thing about marriage though. We’d donate a spare organ for our spouse without thinking twice, but at times get annoyed when (s)he doesn’t take out the proverbial garbage or place the proverbial cap back on the toothpaste.


Someone with whom we have a lifetime of lessons to learn is someone whose presence in our lives is a catalyst for growth, a test of our ability to love unconditionally.



Marriage is a spiritual practice that provides maximum opportunity for mutual growth.



(What a nice way to say that every button we have will be pushed until we resolve the wounds behind them.) These are the truths I was soon to have time to ponder at length.


After gulping down a palm full of ticker-supportive supplements, eating a heart-healthy breakfast of steel-cut oats & blueberries & going a round of cardio, without symptom or warning, my husband, Peter, suffered a heart attack.  Go figure. Just minutes before he was strong & healthy & we were laughing out loud & making plans for the day. At that moment I understood why people say you might want to sit down.


It’s all a blur from there, literally & figuratively, because I forgot to wear my glasses in my rush to get to the hospital.  In short, here’s how it went down as I was stemming the tide of chaotic thoughts & frightening scenarios:



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•   911 call

•   Mad scurry to find two aspirin

•   Siren of the ambulance

•   A team of paramedics

•   A gurney

•   Me driving to the wrong hospital

•   Me not having cash in pocket to pay for parking at the wrong hospital

•   Crying to a cop on the side of the road (who offered me a police escort to the

     right hospital)

•   Finally arriving in the right hospital lobby

•   Answering questions about Peter’s living will

•   Being led by the hospital chaplain through the labyrinth of hospital hallways

     to the waiting room …where I waited.

Pray. Pass the Kleenex. Breathe. Repeat.


In the recovery room, confounded by the fact Peter already ate healthfully & exercised regularly, hopelessness was an option I seriously considered (what more could we do?) until the cardiologist informed me that our healthy lifestyle was likely what saved his life. My brain works this over as if I’m trying to translate Swahili but then I get it.


Okay, reframe: Since 30% of people first learn they have heart disease when they die from it (clearly not a good way to find out), we were among the fortunate.


And here’s another one: Instead of making it into OR in record-breaking time (42 minutes from the time the 911 call was made!), we could have been hiking at an altitude of 12,000+ feet without roads or cellphone service. Perish the thought & thank God for His death-defying grace.


Though the cardiologist was a culturally-reserved man of Indian descent, I hugged & kissed him with reckless abandon, having no regard for appropriate boundaries or personal space.  I still remember the look on his face & the awkward 30 seconds that followed. Awkward for him. Not me. Whether he liked it or not, the man who saved my husband’s life deserved that much and so much more.

Our first high-altitude hike after Peter's ticker was tocking strong again.

Every one of us has at least one moment when our appreciation for life was so deep, it became awe. For most couples, this occurs at the magical, mind-blowing event of childbirth. For us, it was against the backdrop of mortality, when one tends to see life for the ridiculously generous miracle it is.


Our second chance together taught us to handle the slings and arrows of time & mortality with greater aplomb, to see our loved ones through the eyes of impermanence & allow their preciousness to grow, to bend more graciously with the capriciousness of life, to let adversity leave us both tougher & more tender.


And even when our love seems unnecessary for the telling, telling it anyway & telling it every day.

It's Happy in Here (TM) (Series) |  How to Be Happy:  22 Tips to Everyday Bliss by Cindy O'Krepki

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