Su Lum: Heart attacks |

Su Lum: Heart attacks

Last Friday evening Robert Harth, the ex-CEO of the Aspen Music Festival who had moved up to head Carnegie Hall, died of a heart attack. He was 47.I didnt know him, but he was clearly a man of verve, charm, humor and chutzpah, a fireball of energy who blazed into Aspen with the permanent music tent and Harris Hall among his credits when he left to shake things up in New York City.My mother would be the first to recognize the irony of Harths sudden, premature death in the prime of his life while she, at 97, had a heart attack on Wednesday evening, the quick exit shes been counting on, and she survived it. This was her fourth heart attack in the past 7 or 8 years, so she knew at once what it was. The sweaty faint feeling, anxiety, sensations down her sides that couldnt really be defined as pain but an indication that something was very wrong.She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure over a decade ago and looked at it as her ace in the hole, but it was not to be last Wednesday.She had been under the weather for a couple of days, perhaps a portent of the heart attack to come. On Wednesday morning, she and Carol, her dear Jamaican caretaker, debated whether she was strong enough for her morning shower. Carol left the decision up to my mother who, after thinking it over, said I think Id rather die clean, and was wheeled to the shower.Carol called at 4:30 a.m., their time, to say theyd had a rough night but my mother was finally sleeping. At her standing direct orders, 911 was not involved in the event.I had a heart attack! she said cheerfully when I called her the next morning. She was a little bit swacked on drugs, but assured me not to worry about her, this was what she wanted.My mothers doctor visited her, confirmed the heart attack and, when pressed, said there would probably be more, one of which would carry her away. But there are no definite answers. When pressed 10 years ago, the same doctor estimated that she had two or three years remaining.When Hospice took her on a year ago, she saw it as confirmation that shed be dead in six months.After this last heart attack, my mother was almost euphoric. Something, at last, was actually Happening, this was it, dont mourn for me, Im ready.But my mother is also a realist. She has had dozens of rallies and, as her condition improves, is now renewing her efforts to get to an ophthalmologist for a glaucoma exam and a new prescription for glasses. In New Jersey, the logistics of getting a bedridden woman to an eye doctor are more complicated than getting an astronaut on Mars.She lost the battle not to outlive her teeth, but she is determined to outlive her eyes.My mother would have traded places with Robert Harth if she could, but we dont have those options in real life. Real life is arbitrary. And if one of those lives was too short and the other very long, both were well lived.[Su Lum is a longtime local who fears her genes. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]