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by Abigail Van Buren

Five Heart Attacks Fail to Change Man's Habits

DEAR ABBY: My husband "William" and I have been married 32 years. I love him dearly, but his health is poor. William is only 55, has had five heart attacks and has three stents in his heart. His last visit to the ER included being hit with paddles because his heart had stopped. In spite of this, my husband continues to smoke, eat whatever he wants and so on. I feel as if I am just waiting for him to die.

I think about this all the time. When I try to call my husband and he doesn't answer, I envision him at home dead on the floor. We have made all the arrangements necessary for when the time comes.

We recently moved into a new home. William works constantly around the house and then complains to me about how tired he gets. When I encourage him to take it easy and rest, he says, "I have to get everything done before I die." It's driving my crazy.

How do I end these obsessive thoughts of my husband dying? It scares me to think of life without him. We have been together since I was a teenager. Other times I feel as if his death will actually set me free. William is a good man, and I'm troubled by these constant nagging thoughts. Any advice would be a blessing. -- WAITING IN TEXAS

DEAR WAITING: Considering the circumstances, your concern is normal. If my husband had had five heart attacks and didn't take care of himself, I would be worried sick, too.

It is very important that you understand and accept that your husband is living his life on his own terms, exactly the way he wants to -- smoking, eating, fixing up the house so it will be "perfect" for the woman he loves. Enjoy him to the fullest and be thankful for every day you have with him, because the more you obsess about losing him, the less you will be able to enjoy the present. If you think about it -- the present is all that anybody is guaranteed. A talk with a therapist or a member of the clergy -- so you'll have someone to lean on when the time comes -- may help you make your way through the process of acceptance.