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SHELLY WARNER, August 25 2022


In November 2001 my father passed away from an acute coronary event. He was 66. Yes, he did have a history of heart problems. He had endured multiple procedures including multiple stents and angioplasty surgery. He had even been at the cardiologist the day before he passed away. His cardiologist told him he was ‘doing fine’ and essentially shrugged off the questions and concerns my dad shared with him that day. He was told to keep doing what he was doing and enjoy his life. My dad was an active person. Although he was not a small man, he loved sports, nature and to be on the move. In his earlier days, he was a hockey player, loved to roller blade, ride his bike, go kayaking, cross country skiing and walk our dog. He had a wanderlust and enjoyed exploring new areas and places previously unfamiliar to him. He loved to be outside, enjoying anything he could. This would include his walks on the beach, gardening, being on his boat and taking it out on the ‘Big Lake’-Lake Michigan. It could also be as simple as walking hand-in-hand with my mom through the grocery store, enjoying an evening stroll or walking through the mall visiting all of the shops she loved to peruse. My dad was a calm and gentle soul who was a lover of nature, animals, boats, open water and most importantly his family and God. His dream in life was for both he and my mom to retire together and enjoy their beautiful condo in Muskegon, MI, making new memories, new friends, traveling the world and spending more time with family and those they loved. 

As active as he was, my dad carried a lot of weight on his body in his later years. He tried to control his diet and to eat ‘healthy’. The problem was his definition of healthy did not match what was truly healthy for his body. I think that is a problem for so many of us today. Due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of how various foods impact our internal health, my dad believed eating ‘healthy’ meant eating ‘light’. He would eat smaller volumes of food, but the food choices were poor. Crackers and cheese are not a healthy snack. Cereal with dairy milk and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch were not the nutrients his internal body needed for best health. He had no idea the impact the processed foods and animal products he was eating were having on his cardiovascular system. He believed if he ate less, that was good. But it never occurred to him the actual quality of his food choices were the most significant factor for his health. I am sure the foods he was eating didn’t raise a flag for him as they were not loaded with sugar, dripping with fat or too voluminous in portion size. His doctor never shared nutrition information with him. His doctor never even discussed nutritional and dietary choices in connection with his cardiovascular health. He was just told to ‘eat better’. What does that even mean? I tried to help my dad by sharing what information and knowledge I had at the time, but I was misinformed as well. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did my best, but what I was able to share at that time was not actually correct. I constantly think to myself, “if I had only known then what I know now, maybe I could have saved my dad’s life.” 

I have a lot of regrets in life. I regret I did not have the level of knowledge and understanding I have today of how food choices we make impact our long-term health. I wish I would have had the resource base to share with him so he could do better research on his own as he worked to improve his own health. I wish I would have had the understanding that if your doctor does not discuss your diet and food choices in relation to health concerns you may have, that you need to get a new doctor. Maybe not move away from a doctor you currently have, but at least add one to your team who does understand and can share how diet and nutrition impact long-term health. I regret our time together in this life was cut short. I regret I did not realize until later in life how deep and significant conversations with my dad could be if I only slowed down enough to spend the quality time with him. And had the courage to ask the deep questions and dig further into his answers and what he had to share for greater meaning and lessons to learn. After we had moved to NC, I did have some of this with my dad, but I yearn to have had more of it. 

What will I never regret? Taking the time to truly listen and share openly with both my mom and dad. To develop a bond so deep that extends to today, even though it has been almost 21 years since my dad left us. To have had the courage to say “yes” to those trips to Europe with my parents even when we felt as if we couldn’t afford it and almost said “no”. I will not regret having absorbed many beautiful parts of my dad such as a love of animals, a love for the outdoors, exploring the world and the power of sports in shaping who you will become. I am so blessed to have shared those experiences with him throughout my life. He was the one who taught me how to swim, ride a bike, ice skate, ski, drive a car, (including how to drive a manual transmission), how to drive a dual-engine boat, how to stop and wonder at the world around me, and how to appreciate the blessings of having a wonderful partner to share your life with. He taught me the value of love, family, kindness, and the art of listening. He shared by example the gift of patience and being careful with words. He was a quiet man yet when he spoke, he spoke with a message of strength, courage, and character. I am still working on that gift of patience and speaking less often, but I suppose we all have our things to work on, right? But I can tell you this...I will never regret sharing with others the information, knowledge and wisdom we have gained regarding nutrition and the impacts to health. We have learned so much in the past few years from our studies, research, scientific reports, a multitude of doctors and experts in the field and also from our own personal experiences as well as those experiences of others we have met along the way. Our new mission in life is to keep on sharing what we now know as well as to share the power and gift of God in our lives.

My most important purpose with this message is to provoke thought of those things you might regret in the future. What are those things you would regret the most if the worst-case scenario were to happen to you or someone you love? Whatever those regrets could be, you have the gift of now to change the future. Work hard to ensure those will not be the regrets you will live with. So often these are the easiest things in life to change. All it requires is the investment of you, your time and focus to engage with those you love. Don’t miss the moments. Don’t create regrets.

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