Some of you are aware that I periodically assemble and print my posts into large format full color books. These are not for general distribution but are given to our children (and to our parents when they were alive) as a record of our post-retirement lives.

I am currently working on the 8th Volume, A “Speedbump” in Our Retirement Highway, We Pause to Face Mortality. When completed these 8 books will total over 1,500 pages. Whether or not appreciated during our life, I am more assured that they will be cherished when we are gone. Normally the “Foreword” to each volume is not shared publicly. However, I thought it appropriate to share this one:

Foreword to Volume 8

Dear Children, Grandchildren, and someday Great-Grandchildren.

At birth (actually a few months before birth), Fate assigns us a finite number of heartbeats. Rarely do we consider the “finite” in that statement as we blithely live our lives as if there will be no end. But the truth is that the number of heartbeats is ever in decline and will never be more than the beat that is occurring at this second.

About 35 years ago a routine annual physical and blood test revealed that I had a significant genetic condition that would end my life within 5 years. There was no cure.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross declared that there are 5 stages of grief and dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I was not in denial as I accepted the diagnosis and started notifying family members and co-workers. However, my thoughts and actions were purely from my head and not my heart. The emotional fallout had not yet occurred.

I elected to get a second opinion and found that the University of Utah specialized in testing for the diagnosed condition. They forwarded testing vials and instructions and I arranged for the blood to be drawn through my doctor’s office.

The return of test results took about a month. It was a month that found me and Christine contemplating a more limited life going forward, with me suffering a steady decline in health, activity, ability, and ultimately an early death. There were discussions about life in family Schloss without me. Still, the discussions were largely “academic” and not at a gut emotional level, but they were moving in that direction.

Even with a perceived future that would not see me to age 50, the finiteness of life did not grip my soul. Oh, the results of the special blood test from the University of Utah established that the first test was a false positive. Life was still finite, but I again had license to pretend otherwise. So it goes.

Fast forward to 2023. The year began with the excitement of travel and shared experiences with Christine, family, and friends. The year ended in much the same way. However, between those highpoints there was a very deep and dark valley.

I voluntarily underwent surgery on June 2nd to treat a worsening life-long tremor. An electrode was implanted in my brain, connected to a device in my chest that would counter the erratic nerve impulses issuing from the thalamus on the left side of my brain. By all accounts the surgery went well and I was released from the hospital the following day.

On June 7th I suffered a sudden hemorrhage in the left hemisphere thalamus of my brain. I found myself immediately confronted with the inability to walk and talk as most people do. Unlike my response to the false diagnosis of 35 years past, on June 7th the horizon of my life had suddenly shrunk to “now”. The future was concealed by an impenetrable mist of the unknown. It was terrifying. Sleep often eluded me as I lay in bed feeling the walls and ceiling closing in on me. At times I felt the air being sucked out of the room. These were physical manifestations of the emotional shock I was enduring. Through it all Christine was a master of calm and understanding. She accepted me wholly as I was regardless of whether this was who I would now always be.

Unlike 35 years ago, the emotional impact I suffered in June, 2023 did not allow for any “what if” discussions. We were too consumed with the immediate confrontation of our mortality. “In sickness and in health… until death do us part” were no longer vague insubstantial promises that looked infinitely into the future, they were the definition of our “now”.

As you will see in these posts, there was a silver lining. The surgeon explained that a brain bleed is a rare complication of the surgery, but in her considerable experience it only occurs at or near the time of the operation, never 5 days post-surgery.

There was more. I not only recovered from the brain hemorrhage, but as the result of the brain bleed the activation of the DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) controller has thus far proven unnecessary. The hemorrhage and its effect on that portion of my brain which is the source of my tremors has significantly reduced the shaking in my dominant hand. Again, this was unique to my neuro-surgeon’s experience. This was the beneficial result hoped for from implant surgery and activation of the DBS controller on June 2nd, just not in the way that anyone could have foreseen.

I now know the difference between confronting mortality with one’s head versus one’s heart. I also know the incalculable value of having a partner at my side who embraces without hesitation the words of our marriage vows. I pray that each of you have such good fortune and love in your life, lives counting down one heartbeat at a time…

Love, Your Dad, Grandpa, and perhaps someday Your Great Grandfather.



18 thoughts on “Foreword to Volume 8

  1. Heartfelt, wise, brave and full of love and insights about life.
    The chance of odd in living in all. But the opportunity in fate in sharing with many. Glad we ran into each other in Santiago.
    Precious in every moment. Buen Camino and will meet again.

  2. Heartfelt, brave, wise, and full of love and insights of life. It’s
    the chance of odds in living, but the opportunity in fate of sharing
    every precious moment. So glad we crossed path in Santiago. All
    heartbeats may be counting down, the eternal spirit is building up.
    Bravo and Buen Camino. Will meet again.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, they are always thought provoking. I had a similar experience when diagnosed with my brain tumor during the time awaiting my first brain surgery. Sue got me through as she has many times since she “resocialized” me upon my return from Vietnam. We’re lucky to have such wonderful life partners.
    Wishing you and Christine millions more heartbeats together.
    Peace, Bill

    • As with you and Sue, I cannot imagine life without Christine. Perhaps the fiction of “forever” insulates us from the fearful reality that at some point in time, one of us will live without the other.

  4. Ralph Oesterle says:

    Thanks for sharing. I think Mary and I can relate. I’m glad you are still with us. You and Christine make the world a better place.

    • Ralph, just a few days ago Christine and I were thinking of you and Mary. I wish you were both here that I could give you a hug. Be well and love to both of you from both of us.

  5. Mary Grimaldi says:

    Wow Pete I did not know the trauma of your first”death” event! You explained the head/heart feelings perfectly. Yes we all need to face the decreasing heartbeats as a normal part of life! Thank you

  6. Oh Pete, Pete, Pete – you get me every time – I need a tissue or two for just about every post! I had no idea that you were given such a scary “sentence” so long ago! That must have been terrifying! Ah – yes the number of heartbeats – I have been told that I was handed over to my parents with the comment – “Take her home and make her comfortable” (I was given 6 mos). Even though they had a small herd at that point, it must have been devastating for them. Yet – here I am. (knocking on wood). As far as partners – your comment to Bill caught in my throat! I can only speak for myself about my marriage but I waited 52 years for my Prince Charming, I can’t imagine my life without him. I love the idea of the books for your great grands – I have so many questions regarding my own ancestors – such a book would have been a blessing. Speaking of blessings – I am sending them to you and your Bride. Stay groovy my friends.

    • Liz, rarely a day goes by that I don’t have some question I wish I could’ve asked my mother. These books will never answer all the questions, but they will give the future generations some insights that I never had.
      Sad but true, it is the rare couple that departs life simultaneously. We are destined that one of us will spend some time living without the other.

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