“Are you sitting?”
The daunting words came from my husband just hours after his heart tests.
The procedures had sprung up suddenly, and just as suddenly turned our lives topsy-turvy.
“It’s severe,” he’d said, explaining the mitral-valve rupture and need for repair. “We’re talking open-heart surgery.”
I had to stop him later while he explained precisely what this would mean, remembering exactly why I’d steered clear from a medical career.
Though we know life brings crosses, this one, it seemed, would be even more of a whopper than the murmur that had led us here.
Earlier that week, he’d sat nervously with his siblings and father during his mother’s heart surgery. During the waiting, I’d worried, too, for my father-in-law, and now, I was being thrust into that same unwelcomed space of a spouse facing a spouse’s surgery on one of the body’s most fragile organs.
As I tried processing it all, natural fear mixed curiously with a feeling of calm. Though the unknowns loomed like ghosts, the quiet presence of God hovered near, too, ready to sustain us.
Here, the rubber of faith would meet its road; we’d need to rely more than ever on what had been growing in us all the years prior.
The next evening, I walked alone along a pitch-black path of the monastery grounds where I often seek solace, feeling it the best place to contemplate this cross and what it might mean.
But there in the country, where nightlights come only from faraway stars, a cold darkness took hold. Forging ahead, I began to sing out loud, and little by little, the fears faded. Passing a statue of Our Lady of the Prairies in the distance, I felt myself held.
I’d need to recall this image repeatedly over the next weeks — on the way to the hospital the morning of surgery; while hugging my husband before watching him being wheeled away into the scariest moment of his life; in waiting more hours than expected to hear results; and while, unknowing, his heart flatlined at first exposure to air, causing temporary surgical-room panic.
And though I wouldn’t know until later how Dr. Newman had held and massaged my beloved’s heart back to life, during the six hours of surgery, I sensed every prayer from those who’d prayed in my stead.
One by one, they rose and melded, forming a cacophony of a heart-shaped song, the sweet, melodic petition of which reached heavenward for the God of second chances.
Our road ahead may be long and still bring dark moments, but faith, though elusive at times, will be what comforts in the ongoing symphony of God’s love, ringing out softly, eternally, emanating light and hope.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 16, 2017.]