“Isn’t it breathtaking?” my friend texted just hours after my husband’s surgery.
Ordinarily, her description would have seemed strange, paired as it was to the medical report she’d just read; a rundown of what had been done to my husband’s heart in scientific, technical terms.
But I knew exactly what she meant. Coming from someone who’d stood by her own loved one through many heart surgeries, she could see more than most. And now, having accompanied my husband through two recent open-heart surgeries, I’d been unofficially inducted into the club of those who can see past medical jargon enough to know this was, indeed, breathtaking.
Our anxiety-filled journey that brought us to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester last month for my husband’s repeat open-heart surgery to repair a leaking mitral valve has had a positive resolve, thanks be to God. We are deeply grateful for every prayer said with us in mind.
Along with a hopeful outcome, some new insights on God’s loving pervasiveness came.
The first occurred the day before surgery while reading Ecclesiastes 11:5: “Just as you know not how the breath of life fashions the human frame in the mother’s womb, so you know not the work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe.”
In that moment, I applied “the universe” and its vastness not to the outer universe, but the universe within my husband’s body, understanding that God was already there, within my husband’s heart as he’d been from the very beginning, and would work silently for the good.
I imagined the Divine Physician ready to guide the well-equipped doctors, trained by science, yes, but science that came firstly from the wisdom of God.
While he was in surgery, I realized that as amazing as this medical team was, they would only be glimpsing what God already knew intimately. My husband’s heart – a place where no human was meant to peer into – was being examined, up close, by strangers with whom we were entrusting his life.
It was breathtaking, not only the medical capabilities and expertise but the realization of God’s love for my husband. And though the human work being accomplished was incredible, the work of God, who fashioned the universe and was now guiding the surgeon’s hands, seemed, to me, sublime.
A few days after we returned from Mayo, while listening to a faith-based radio program on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the words of Pope Pius XII struck me: “The heart is the embodiment of love.”
Yes, the heart is an organ, but throughout history, poets and people of God have seen so much more here: the center of love.
I’m still processing the mystery of the work the surgeon and medical team, with God’s help, have accomplished in my husband, but what I know for sure is that it is truly breathtaking, in every sense of the word.
[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 June 15, 2019.]