The overused punch line, “Hold My Beer” is believed to have its origins in the 1990s and involved those “lovable,” Southern rednecks. The comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who turned redneck jokes into a cottage industry, included this one in his 1996 book, “No Shirt. No Shoes…No Problem!”: “What are a Redneck’s famous last words? Simple. ‘Y’all watch this!’
25 years later, we widely use “Hold My Beer.” The background of the joke is in essence: Someone does something outrageous and then someone else says “hold my beer” as a prelude to doing something even more outrageous. Its popularity exploded “on the line” (thank you Vince Vaughn), as the expression became associated with so-called “fail” videos, showing people attempting wildly misguided and foolhardy stunts.
With regard to 2021, some have used “Hold My Beer” in a light-hearted fashion while fervently hoping that 2021 does not exceed the many disasters which defined 2020. Everyone knows someone whose life has been upended by Covid-19. Either they had it, had a friend or family member who had it or knew someone who died from it. We all know someone whose business was detrimentally impacted by Covid-19. We cancelled our traditional family holidays or get togethers. We missed going to our places of worship. And for some of us, in 2020, the dark specter of death appeared to mercilessly claim our loved ones.
In 2020, for me, death did not take a holiday. Instead, it hovered in a cruel manner insinuating itself in its attempt to claim the last vestiges of humanity and hope. On a quiet Friday night in September, death came quietly and peacefully to my 90 year old mother. She had been in a rehabilitation center since February. Since March, the only people she saw were her fellow tenants and healthcare workers. Then came that phone call in the night, “Mr. Dunn, we just found your mother in her bed. She was non-responsive.” And you are left remembering the person she was, the person who nurtured you before dementia began to take her memory.
October marked the first commemoration date of my dad passing. It also marked the fourth commemoration date of my beloved daughter passing. But, death was not through with its insidious plans. On a calm, early November afternoon, I got that call from my older brother’s wife. The pain, the fear, the anguish reverberated as she told me that my older brother had a massive heart attack while at home. A few days later, we watched over him as his heart beat for the last time.
Afterwards, we tried to go back to our daily life …while picking up the pieces from the carnage that death had left. At year end, we tried to believe the worst was behind us. We tried. And before 2021 was even one week old, the specter of Death reappeared, mocking us, grimly laughing at us, taunting us with, “Hold My Beer.”
Almost two months to the day when I got that phone call from my older brother’s now widow, on Tuesday January 5, 2021, I received a call from the wife of my younger brother. The number was a Las Vegas number I did not immediately recognize. I heard a sobbing female voice. Between those sobs of terror, I hear, “Jim had a massive heart attack. He’s in the hospital in surgery right now.”
I am one of the few people who still refer to my younger brother as James … not Jim.
So, yes, my younger brother, almost 2 months to the day my older brother died of a heart condition, had a massive heart attack. I was told he had 100% blockage in one heart ventricle. This past year, naturally being a Dunn, he didn’t tell anyone he had been having minor chest pains as a result of not getting enough oxygen in his system. “Just rub a little dirt on it, you’ll be fine.”
Paramedics arrived. Their worry and anxiety could not be hidden. On the frantic drive to the nearest hospital, calls to the doctors at the nearest hospital were made by the paramedics. Wheeled into the emergency room, twelve (12) medical professionals began to work on him, desperate to save his life.
Have you ever wondered what a massive, heart attack looks like? When one of your ventricles is 100% blocked? Well, it looks like this …
If you are fully aware and alert, you feel agonizing pain in your chest, you feel death begin to sink its icy claws into you. You hear the medical professionals surrounding you, reassuring you, and encouraging you to stay strong, it will only last a few more minutes … and then inexplicably, you may slowly begin to feel yourself start to breathe. In fact, just five (5) minutes after they start to perform life-saving medical procedures, if you are lucky, your clogged heart starts to look like this …
The medical professionals continue to reassure you, just a minute or two more and then … you breathe easier, you feel life begin to flow back into you. Just thirteen (13) minutes after they began to work on you, the blood flow into your heart begins to look like this …
Your pain eases. Your breath starts to come easier. Visions of your older brother dying start to recede. You dare start to believe again that your two children will not live the rest of their life without their dad. The reality hits. Your life can begin anew. And perhaps, in that brief period of time, your soul will find you. And your new journey will be embracing the reality that your soul’s purpose will be revealed to you. You may have dragons to slay … or your own demons to face. But, you are here.
Facing mortality does that to us. Yours or your loved ones. Mortality. Life and Death. It is so uncomfortable to face, to discuss, to try to grasp the finality of death.
Death. The manifestation, the reality, the most glaring sign of our failure. Especially with regard to eating disorders. If the United States Deloitte Report on Eating Disorders is accurate, the mortality rate among people suffering from eating disorders is far worse than what we previously thought. With the highest mortality rate belonging to people who suffer from anorexia nervosa.
Parents of children whose lives were ripped from our loving arms are shunned in the eating disorder community. The stories we could tell, of what worked, what did not work, stories that could provide new, incredibly strong insights into this disease, go untold. Journals of its victims go unread by eating disorder professionals. We remind you of your own failure. To ignore us and the voices of our loved ones who have been taken is bad enough. But, we now know that some individuals and organizations in the eating disorder community use us as fund raising ploys to attempt to fill their own coffers. Individuals and organizations too craven and cowardly to embrace transparency as they blindly race to the bottom of the political correctness barrel.
We are the uncomfortable reminders of your failure.
Our own mortality hits us all in different ways. Family members taken. Family members on death’s door. Beloved children taken from us. Our own mortality.
You have an incredible opportunity to listen, to learn, to grow. To go beyond your own perceived limitations so that more lives can be saved. You can embrace this opportunity to learn … or suffer the consequences if you do not.