They Stopped My Heart, and I am Grateful.

For those who know me well and my writing, this is another rather long one. I often write to process serious happenings in my life and world and this one is just that. It is therapy for me… just a note of FYI should you decide to wade in.

I would say from almost the first visit from my cardiologist’s P.A. post-surgery she has asked me, “Are you depressed? You just don’t seem your normal perky self.” As I understand post operation, especially open-heart bypass surgery, it is a very appropriate question, depression is a common emotion through which to journey after such a major surgery. I have responded to her each time, “No, I don’t think so.”

As I have pondered her question it relates to my own struggle to write after such a journey, which in some sense is just a little over two weeks on the path. While I do not believe I am depressed, I do acknowledge what seems to be a pause in my normal practice of writing in order to process significant moments in my journey. For some reason this one feels a little different, a little deeper, a little more important for me. In that light I would certainly say I have been more reflective, pensive, and ponderous about this happening. As a result, my thoughts and emotions are difficult to put into words. At this first attempt at writing, I have no idea how long or where this will end up. If you choose to read this reflective wondering I just ask you bear with me as I try and find the words for an experience that reaches deep into the unknown realms of who I am and who I long to be.

In terms of what brought me to the morning of November 6, 2017 and a quadruple bypass of the three main arteries around my heart and one additional; one 90% and three 99% blocked, if I remember correctly, the combination of which I do not recall, I will try the short version. Late Sunday night chest pain, trip to the ER with atrial fibrillation, Monday evening my heart converting back to normal rhythm, Tuesday a persistent cardiologist who in his gentle measured way insisted we needed to look deeper, Wednesday morning a stress test, Wednesday a persistent cardiologist who in his gentle measured way insisted we needed to look deeper, Thursday evening a heart catheterization and learning I needed bypass surgery right away.

In terms of the surgery I think there are just a couple of things I want to ponder. One is how I felt about the surgery itself. I told TruDee, and many others, other than the obvious worst-case scenario when one is facing opening the chest and working on the heart, I really was not worried about the surgery. Everyone in the medical field we had spoken with, including my cardiologist and the cardiologist who performed the heart catheterization, and more than one doctor friend, said this surgeon was one of, if not the, best cardiac surgeons in the city. I told myself and others, if I was worried about anything it was the few weeks following the surgery that concerned me, the pain I had heard one must journey through to get back to health…I am not a fan of pain.

While I do remember shedding tears with TruDee at the initial diagnosis and news of the impending surgery, for me I think those tears were as much about the shock of it as they were about fear. I have considered I repeated this not worried/worried mantra in order to convince myself as much as anything. That is perhaps true, but even now on the other side, I do not remember being upset about having the surgery.

I will say the one thing that really caused me pause was reading this literature about the surgery. As the article was informing about all they would be doing it came to the part where the surgeon actually begins working on the heart. The words simply said, “They stop your heart.” Now, I know that sounds drastic, it sounded drastic to me, I really had not thought about that. I also know, as I had indicated earlier, I had tremendous confidence in our surgical team. I trust our technology, I know there are people and machines that keep the blood flowing in the heart’s stead… but… “They stop your heart.” This caused me pause and reflection not so much out of a fear of death, that somehow, they wouldn’t get me started again, but something deeper and more profound, at least for me.

I believe “They stop your heart,” is what continues to resonate in the depths of my reflective, ponderous, and pensive nature post-surgery. I think about all that is wrong with the world I have for so long and will continue to struggle against in relation to injustice, bigotry, misogyny, racism, homophobia, sexism, hate, and all that would make this world an ugly distasteful place. I think about all the pettiness that can infiltrate our lives, grudges, un-forgiveness, drama, bad moods, crankiness, the list is too long, and life if too short.

The long thought of placing one’s life quite literally in someone else’s hands while they stop your heart just seems to put things in perspective I guess. It is the ultimate in vulnerability, in trust, and perhaps in terms of our faith language, the ultimate in terms of experiencing and embracing love as it should be. They stopped my heart, and I am grateful. And this world, even with as much crap that continues to raise its ugly head, is still a beautiful and worthwhile place to be.

It is not lost on me the friends, family, and parishioners who have not survived such an ordeal as I have. I cannot attribute it to some special blessing or divine reason, as if somehow my life was/is more valuable than theirs, it is not. At this point in my journey I simply point to the fact that the medical community caught it early enough to do something about it and I survived. And…I grieve everyday those whom I have known and lost whose bodies did not warn them in time and the medical community were unable to pull them through.

The other piece that is so profound to me is the support, prayers, cards, visits, calls, hugs, words, and presence of those who reached out. I was inundated with the energy and love of communities and relationships across the country, which I believe aided in my comfort with the surgery as well as frame of mind as we waited.

I want to name them all, but I know I cannot, there are too many, and I would not want to forget even one. But let me lay out the short list, if there is such a thing. My family, constantly by my side, who make me better Every. Single. Moment. My doctors and surgeon and their teams. The hospital staff, nurses, cleaning crews, food service, lab techs, all of them. My community CHUM, practicing unconditional love the way it should be. Previous communities of faith and towns I have served. My extended family. Colleagues, friends from school, internet connections, across the nation.

Each morning at the hospital when I would meditate and pray I would imagine all these persons, their prayers, thoughts, energy, good mojo, the Spirit, connection, support, whatever one might call it all mixed up and in with the very Presence of God surrounding me like a warm blanket buoying me in love. It was a healing presence for me. And I am, and will always be profoundly grateful.

This gratitude and presence became a tangible symbol in our mailbox just a fblanketew days after I returned home from the hospital. There appeared a box from and unknown sender. Opening it I found a gift and words of grace shared by two of my Muslim friends from the Mosque on Meridian who had participated in our diversity event just a couple weeks before I had missed due to my being in the hospital. A warm blanket with words of healing, energy, hugs, and hope. I am grateful.

This is the season of Thanksgiving, a good time to reflect on gratitude… but… every day should be as such. This is a long writing and if you have made it this far just know this, I am grateful for you. Life is too short and fragile to get stuck in hate, grudges, un-forgiveness, pettiness, isms, drama, and the negatives of life… hug your loved ones, love your hugged ones. Tell them you love them… Today! Tell them on Thanksgiving and every single day following. And… Love One Another. Every. Single. Other. Until there are no Others…Only Us.

I am grateful. I have no complaints whatsoever.

I love you.

Kent.

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