Today is holy day for me.
Rebirth is far too heavy a word for it so I have settled on holy. This day three years ago I was close to death, in fact most people with an aortic dissection do die - about 80%. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.Each near death experience is different and not all include white light, encompassing love and seeing your whole life flash before you. Mine was clinical and then mysterious.
The entire first year after my “event” was a fog. I spent it trying to get better which simply did not occur on my time table. I believed each doctor when they said I would be better in about 6 weeks. What garbage that was. Open heart surgery is as intrusive an operation as one can have. Your arms are tied back (no one told me this and I wondered for weeks why my shoulders and arms were so sore) for the duration of the surgery, your chest in hacked open in a way only Genghis Khan could appreciate and every tube in the hospital is inserted into each orifice you have not to mention the 10 or 15 they invent. Then after the surgery you are tasked with the new job of surviving - evidently the first 24 hours being the most crucial (I always thought every 24 hours in our lives are crucial) followed by a long, in my case, very long journey of healing. When I woke up from my surgery the first thing I did was look down my hospital gown at a nasty incision. I thought I looked like an autopsy. Then I looked around at the faces of my worried family and immediately realized what must have occurred. I had uncharacteristically terrified my family. That feeling of guilt stayed with me for a long time. But I did what I always do when I don’t like what is in front of me - I put it behind me. I ignore it. I have done this my whole life.
When my mother left I cried and then put it on a shelf.
When my mother died I cried and then put it on a shelf.
When I found out I was adopted, when I moved from Texas, when I had a miscarriage, and then another, when my children left on missions, college and marriage and even when my parents died. I bottled up each difficult episode and shelved it until the shelf became too full. I learned some valuable tools for dealing with my shelving problem years before my aortic event but this was too big to deal with at once. So I shelved it. No matter how well Valerie had taught me, I reverted. That first year was learning to live with pushing myself to do anything. The medicine I take makes me so tired as it is designed to slow me down and boy does it. My resting heart rate can go as low as 45. My surgeon told me he wants my heart to beat as seldom as possible right before he said it could happen again.
I went from not being able to walk to the kitchen to walking to the end of the street as my family and friends encouraged me. Now I walk 3 miles without thinking about it but in the beginning I had to push, prod and plead with myself to do it. I don’t like to push myself and usually stop at the first sign of discomfort, but I kept at it and saw progress.
That whole first year was cathartic - I admit that now. My beliefs were all tied up, my emotions were a mess and I lived with constant guilt that I lived when so many others died. I am better now....not where I want to be, but certainly better. Since my dissection we have squared away our loan modification which kept us in flux (and terror of losing our home) for 5 years, we have a wonderful new daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Our business continues to pay the bills and Raymond’s health is on track.
We truly have a new lease on life....but it is just a lease and we both know that.
The best part of my dissection is how my faith has changed. And my faith can be interpreted into anyone’s belief system. I am learning to put away the heavy hammers of obedience and replace them with the simple love of Christ. I find the love from Christ, but you can call it anything you want to. I not only offer that love to myself but to those around me as I try and see people as God does. He loves us despite our shortcomings. He loves broken things.
Not long ago I relived a day from my early childhood when I didn’t have religion in my life at all, but I wanted to pray, I wanted to be with God. So He came and walked with me, I remember, as a 6 year old I believed in God with all my heart because somehow I knew Him and knew He was with me. My parents were coming and going, homes were here, there and everywhere but God was always with me. It was a simple faith, a child’s faith. I believed in Him and I knew He loved me and I didn’t have to do anything to deserve that love. Since my surgery I have slowly gone back to that kind of faith. He knows my heart...a heart that was almost broken because of a faulty artery. It’s funny isn’t it? My heart is fine...but what kept it alive was broken. A perfect metaphor for life....you are perfect, but the things that feed you might not be. So surround yourself with good people, good food, go outside and enjoy the rain, or the sunshine....read good books, speak with God....wait for His counsel and follow it. Love...let everything you write, think and say be based in love, think of it as the food you give your heart.