DEAR ABBY: It has taken me years to be able to write this letter. With Father's Day approaching, I can't put it off any longer.
This is the 10th year I will avoid greeting card stores, full-page ads for Father's Day specials, and any other reference to Father's Day.
My beloved father was buried the day before Father's Day in 1991. His surgery to repair damage from a heart attack was unsuccessful. He had seen the doctor the week before, complaining of chest pains. After a short exam, he was given a prescription for an antacid and advised to return in two weeks if the problem persisted. He didn't survive two weeks.
We were stunned that this active, vital man could, without his knowledge, have a heart problem so severe that it proved to be fatal. After the funeral I did some research.
The most startling statistic I discovered is 225,000 people die unexpectedly each year from heart attacks. One cardiologist told me, "Sometimes the first symptom is that the patient is dead."
Abby, this figure accounts for one-fourth of all heart disease-related deaths in this country. Had my father been properly diagnosed, in all probability he could have received treatment to prevent his heart attack. As it turned out, his heart was so badly damaged, he was unable to withstand the surgery to try to save his life.
Abby, please urge your readers to insist that their loved ones see a doctor regularly for a complete physical examination -- especially if there's a history of heart disease or other high-risk factors in their family.
If one father takes my advice and spares his children the pain of a fatherless Father's Day, my wonderful father's death will not have been without meaning. -- MISSING DAD IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR MISSING DAD: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your father. While I can urge readers to schedule annual physicals, it is eloquent letters like yours that often give them the added "push" they need to safeguard their health. If they won't do it for themselves, sometimes they'll do it for the peace of mind of their families.
I'm sorry you're still suffering so much pain. Perhaps it will help you to take a moment on Father's Day to remember some of the special times you shared with him. I can't imagine a finer tribute.