Meet Mark – whose stroke helped him “appreciate life more”

On July 1st, 2013, I had just stepped off the plane in Orlando for a vacation with my fiancée when I got a phone call. It was from St. Louis, and I was told that my son had been murdered. My fiancée and I got on the plane right away—the longest plane ride of my life—to go back home. It was devastating.

Fast forward to July 5th, just a few days later. I got up that morning to use the bathroom, and my body started feeling funny. My fiancée, who was home by chance, called the ambulance, and they came to get me.

It was a stroke. I previously had learned I had high blood pressure, but I felt like I had been in control of my stress before my son died. Never in my wildest dreams, however, could I have prepared myself for the murder of my son. I don’t know if it was mainly because of that or because of the high blood pressure that I had my stroke. Probably both.

It’s been three years of therapy and I’m still recovering. It’s very difficult to have to deal with both my physical condition, not being able to do things like I want to, and my emotional condition too, losing my son the way I did. It’s a battle every day to stay positive.

I was bitter when I first got out of the hospital. I would look at people walking and would say, “Man, they just don’t realize how blessed they are just to be able to walk.” I didn’t want to live like this. I wasn’t suicidal, but I felt like if I died the next day, it wouldn’t matter.

Faith and religion helped me change this attitude. One day, I turned on the TV and saw a female preacher. She was talking about healing and how we had to continue to praise God for our healing. She made one profound statement near the end of that program, and it has stuck with me ever since. She said, “You just have to keep praising him because one day your body is going to catch up to your praise.”

Soon after, I saw another preacher on TV. He was talking about Paul, and how Paul said that he had to learn how to be content. That helped me to say, “You know what? I just need to learn how to be content.” That was a real turning point for me. I had everything I needed to survive this. I just needed to learn how to trust God and be content.

I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to return to my work as an accountant. I still have my cognitive skills, and I’m right-handed, so the stroke didn’t affect my dominant side. Work is very important to me, so it’s been a blessing to be able to continue doing it.

I’m not the same person now that I was before my stroke. In fact, I’m a better person because I appreciate life more. The little things don’t bother me as much. What matters to me now is passing on how life is precious to my children and people around me. That’s why I want to volunteer and go back to help people that are going through what we go through and try to help them have a better attitude.

Don’t give up. Just keep working. That’s my motto.