My dad had a heart attack last Monday.
Yesterday, he had a triple bypass, and is just beginning the long road to recovery.
I accompanied my mom while he was undergoing the operation, and we talked about wonderful things, even joked, because I don’t think either of us really wanted to think of the details of what was happening. However, we didn’t need to. The knots in our stomachs were thinking about it all…
Still, it came time to visit my dad, and the doctor warned us about how he might look while he was still under anesthesia. I felt butterflies in my stomach (to accompany the knot), but both my mom and I decided to be brave and visit Dad in this crucial time. He came out of the operation with his body accepting his ‘now new’ heart, so that was good news…
I used to work as a nurse assistant and even sat by people as they died. And besides, I’ve watched a million of those medical shows, both fictional and non-fictional. But… I wasn’t prepared for the image of my dad.
His face (of course) was different, puffy, contorted, and wires and tubes everywhere. Sure, when it’s someone on TV, we might think, wow, how fascinating the medical system is! When it’s a loved one, we can go into shock. Well, at least I did. This was no ordinary operation. It was one that flirted with the edges of life and death. A heart outside a body… machines keeping the person alive… a chest completely broken…
What struck me most was seeing a man, my father, who has a strong and leadership-gifted personality in such a weak state. It was like seeing Aslan (the Lion from Narnia) tied down. Something was seriously wrong with this picture. I realized how vulnerable my dad is, how we all are, despite our strong personalities or even our pride and our ambitions. Life is fragile, and a gift, for all of us.
But I was also not prepared for what flashed through my mind next. I suddenly imagined all those who have hurt me in my life, those who haven’t reconciled, those I didn’t like all too much or judged for some reason or another, and most especially, the few people who hurt me the most in my life. I saw them where my dad was… face altered, in between life and death, fragile, at that place where we start to think about the meaning of our lives, if we are conscious, or maybe even if we are unconscious. And I realized, how on earth could we harbor any negative feelings toward ANYone? How could I? We will all be here some day, on the edge of life and death… some of us will wake back up… some of us will not. And then it will between no one else but ourselves and our Creator.
I thought of the pain of being in this state (the closest I have come has been childbirth, heart surgery myself, although much more minor, deep feelings of regret or sorrow, and excruciating migraines where I would gladly end my life if I didn’t have so much respect for life…). I thought of those who have hurt me being in this state. Would I not cry at their bedside as I did my dad’s? Would I not have compassion on them and forget anything ridiculous or rude or cruel they said or did to me? Would I not simply want to comfort them in their pain?
The answer is yes. Yes. I would only love them, and I would be hard pressed to even remember what they did to me.
My dad and I have a long and painful and beautiful history. Yes, when I was a young child, he said things that hurt me… and when I was a young teenager, I said things to hurt him. I had bottled up my feelings and let them loose, especially when I turned 16. In my youthful ignorance, I had no idea what kind of life he had endured, what his gifts were, who he was… I was only concerned with myself. Of course, we can both cut ourselves slack because we were both growing. And we have had tremendous healing and reconciliation over the years. But still, these are the images that seem to surface when we are faced with a life and death situation. And more importantly, I have recently argued with him, even the night of his heart attack. I have been so determined to be right (well, I take most after Dad, I am proud to say ;)) that I disregarded the person behind the face, whom only God knows intimately and infinitely.
Today is almost the one year anniversary of when I had a sort of open-heart surgery… a time when I painfully was surprised by hurt and betrayal, but then God began to operate. He began to teach me true love on another level… to love our enemies and to pray for those who hate us. And yesterday, He brought things up a notch. Now, I can picture what I saw yesterday when a feeling of disdain or ‘righteous justice’ pops into my head… and I can smile and love with my heart, truly.I thought of those I have written forgiveness letters to…. God has increased my level of forgiveness for each and every one of you, and I have seen my foolishness, although of course we are all human. God knows that. And I know He’s not sitting there saying “HA! Idiot!” He is smiling at me with compassion… but He wasn’t done with His lesson for me.
When we returned home, I was stricken with one of the worst migraines I have had in recent history, at 3:00 in the morning last night. I writhed in pain and nausea and felt I was in a living nightmare. In some strange way, I expected my body to finally give out to all the stress of this past week. When I was finally able to eek out a few words, I said to my hubby who was comforting me for hours, “He brings down the mighty.” Later this morning, when I started to recover, I expanded on my little revelation. For those of us who are proud, if we truly want to live in holiness, He will allow us to be brought down to where we should be: on our knees to Him.
Like “Aslan’s daughter”, I have been brought down… exactly to where I should be.
Thank you, Dad, for your brave suffering. Thank you, hubby, for being there with me despite my horrible proud mood this past week. Thank you, Mummir, for being more beautiful than ever in your humble joy and courage. Thank you, John (Mandy) for somehow always getting me to laugh during the most difficult of times, and Carrie for listening to me as I shared all my stress. Thank you to all, the many, who have been praying for Dad and our family.
And thank you most of all, my God, for never missing an opportunity to show me, in love, how to love You even more.
Love and blessings to all,