A dream, a heart, and a choice.

By Mel d’Rego

Being winter, at 7 pm, the light had already faded from the open windows of his office, and Raj still had a way to go.  His team were still toiling away, getting the last minute preparations for the bulk transfer of high-quality Australian meats to Japan finalized, disregarding, for now, the siren call of the Friday evening.  To make it easy on them, Raj had broken out a red wine, opened a small board of camembert and crackers.  And from one bottle it turned into two.

Raj was used to these kind of late evenings, it actually being part of the culture of the company: often staying back, working overtime to get things done.  And to ease the pain of the evenings, there was the wine, and sometimes, beer, and food while they worked.  Who could complain?

The team was done by 12ish that night, leaving behind a garbage bag full of pizza boxes, empty Magnum ice-cream wrappers and plastic wine glasses.  And the choice meat was on its way to Tokyo.

Raj (not his real name, but a real person, nonetheless) was a regular acquaintance of mine: our daughters attended the same school in Sydney’s suburbs, were in the same dance class, and, until he had moved quite a few suburbs away, we’d chat at least once a month.

He was a jolly, rotund man, chubby of face, big of belly, with the most girlish laugh you could find in a man, a laugh that was always trilling out whenever Raj was in the neighbourhood: a happy man who made friends easily.  His pride and joy were his children: he’d always be holding his little son’s hand when we’d talk.

Now, wanting a better place, a home of his own, Raj bought his dream house on a neat parcel of land.  After a year of deliberation he’d decided to make Sydney his home, and this was his dropping anchor, even though homes in Sydney don’t come cheap.

And so, he’d dragged his retired parents over from the Punjab to stay with his family and babysit his son, while his wife and he planned to work long and hard for the next 5 years to kill off the worst of the heavy burden that was their mortgage.

At a little past 12 that night Raj called his wife:  he was on his way home for the weekend.

At about 1 am he called his wife again: he was checking himself into the Blacktown hospital; he’d a pain in his chest.  Raj collapsed at the front desk of the Blacktown Hospital, and was immediately whisked away for attention.  Raj was declared dead of a massive heart attack at 2 am, at the tender age of 40.

I attended the funeral with another school parent: the saddest funeral I’ve witnessed in a long time.  A whole plane-load of relatives had flown over from the Punjab, all turbans and dupattas, and there was loud wailing all the time at the funeral parlor.  Raj’s wife and daughter simply clung to each other, unable to stand, bathed in each-others’  tears.  His 4 year old son was stoic, in shock:  nary a word escaped him.  Per Indian tradition, he would be the one to finally light the funeral pyre, but as this was a coffin-cremation, they lifted the little boy up to tighten the fastenings on the coffin, the sight breaking the heart of everyone present.

Youth is a wonderful thing.  We rarely worry.  And with the habit of youth, arriving on the edge of 40, we rarely think about our mortality.  And it is only when we lose someone as young as Raj do we wonder if we are doing what’s right for ourselves, and for our loved ones.

And while we age, though we can shift any financial risk onto our insurers, the one loss that we can never replace is that of ourselves.  The insurer may pay for a house, but it is you who make that house a home, and that grouping of people into that precious unit called your family.

If my research for my books has taught me one thing it is this: that our minds are the source of all our results, of all that we achieve.  Our minds make our choices, our decisions, consciously or unconsciously.  But it is our heart (and those of our loved ones) that, in the end, regrets those choices. Beware the unconscious decision, the “default decisions” we make when we choose to make no decision, to take no action, against all the admonitions of the knowledge we have accumulated.

  • Right now, like Raj, we are making choices, despite that uncomfortable weight that nudges us daily.
  • Right now we are making choices about the kinds and quantities of food we eat and the drinks we consume in spite of what we know about healthy nutrition.
  • Right now we are making choices about our priorities in our lives: a TV show instead of exercise, a cigarette instead of fresh air.

They are the

  • The activity,
  • The nutrition and
  • The lifestyle choices

that overtake our lives, affecting them to our detriment, especially as we age.

Don’t let your life be railroaded, and overcome, with unconscious “default” decisions.  The choice, as always, is yours.  Choose consciously.  Choose wisely and well. And your heart will thank you for it.


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