Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wearing red 

When Evelyn walked into a room, everyone felt happier. It wasn't because she was beautiful, though she had sparkling blue eyes, a lovely smile, and masses of wavy blond hair. It wasn't because she was talented, though her soprano voice was high and clear, and she was an intuitive, graceful dancer. It wasn't even because she was bright, charming, and had a wicked sense of humor. While all of those attributes were part of the lovely person that Evelyn was, her greatest gift was the joy that she found in life, and her ability to share that joy with those around her. Evelyn just made people feel good.

Five years ago this spring, my dear friend Evelyn had a massive heart attack. While doctors eventually resuscitated her, they were too late; she no longer had brain activity. All of her marvelous vivacity, talent, humor and gentleness were gone. Her husband Mark, the minister who officiated at Paul's and my wedding, made the gut-wrenching and generous decision to donate Evelyn's organs to people who needed them. When I think of Evelyn now, I wonder who may be alive, or no longer on dialysis, or seeing more clearly because they now have some part of Evelyn's body in their own.

Evelyn was 49 years old. She had no history of heart disease.

Tomorrow is the second annual National Wear Red Day, on which Americans are asked to wear red to raise awareness that heart disease is the #1 killer of American women, and that cardiovascular disease of some sort kills 1 in 3 American women. Wear Red Day, and the Red Dress campaign, are part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's The Heart Truth campaign, and the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women program. Both organizations have a wealth of information on the risk factors for heart disease in women, and on the symptoms of heart disease and heart attack, which are often different for women than for men. Please look at this information. Consider whether you or someone you love might be at risk. If someone you love is at risk, tell her. Tell her that you don't want to lose her. If that someone is you, please take care of yourself. That's what I'm going to do; I'll be back at the gym (where I have not been for months) in the morning.

I'll be wearing red tomorrow for women who may already have heart disease, or may be at risk for developing it. What that really means is that I'll be wearing red for all of us. And I'll be wearing red for Evelyn.