austin cline, grace cline, bennett cline

Forward Motion

I spent Christmas 2018 in the hospital recovery ward healing from a third surgery to repair a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I start playing holiday music in October. But this year, there were no presents to be exchanged, no Christmas morning pictures, or delicious food—just the soft beeping from machines keeping me alive.

After a month in the hospital, I was finally able to go home. My body was stable but far from healed. Before my discharge papers could be signed, the nurses and doctors all but required me to do one more thing: move.

For me, such a simple task was incredibly painful and difficult. What would take a normal person 30 seconds took me 30 minutes. My body, drained of all resources and energy, fought me every minute. But it was the only way I could go home.

I find the same principle applies to life’s obstacles. When we’re faced with challenges, disappointments, heartache, trauma, we have two choices: to lie down or to move forward.

Finding forward motion is hard at times. It can be downright scary to step out and move when there are no lighted paths, no guidebooks, or no one to tell you the directions. But you have to move forward no matter what.

After two surgeries, I was told I was better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true. I was readmitted shortly after my second surgery due to being lightheaded and disoriented. The surgeries hadn’t quite worked the way we hoped. And because of the severity of my condition, there was uncertainty about my long-term recovery.

One night, as I lie in the hospital bed unable to sleep, I pulled out my phone and began to write my son a letter. I knew if I didn’t make it, there were things I would want him to know. The things that dads should tell their sons but often fail to. He was only two and may not have remembered much, but this letter would be my way of making sure he knew I loved him. I did the best I could.

It’s hard to describe fragile moments like this and the sadness they bring. I still have that note and will always remember that moment.

Lessons Learned

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I’ve had countless people ask me what I learned from a near-death experience. Truth be told, I don’t have a profound insight to share. I didn’t see any light or hear any voices.

But it did change me. My mind no longer operates on default the way it used to. I have more conscious, intentional awareness about my life. When bad things come, I remember the small miracles I saw firsthand and the love and support of those around me. The bad things no longer seem so terrible.

And when a good thing happens, I close my eyes and take a picture to keep forever in my head.

Just 12 months later, I have a successful business, a beautiful family, and I’m healthy. To wrap this up, I encourage you to keep going, no matter what. When things go wrong and everything falls apart, keep your head up. Tread water. Don’t give up. A lot can change in 365 days.

Keep moving forward.

It does get better. I promise.

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