Actually September 4th will be the five-month anniversary from when I found out that I have massive heart damage. Today as I sit down to write about my recovery the number one word that comes to my mind is “Thankful.” I am so thankful to be alive and for the family and friends that have surrounded me with everything I need in order to recover. Honestly, I now know how rich I am. I cannot imagine what people do if they do not have the safety net of family and friends to get through something like this.
My husband, kids and grandchildren have been absolutely amazing! They have surrounded me with love and support. My sister, her husband and kids and my cousins have shown that our family bonds run deeper than I could have imagined. I do not have enough words to express how much I love and appreciate them.
This weekend we had a family gathering in Portland. My Aunt Virginia (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Nick have seven children. They are all adults and have their own kids and grands. It has been a long time since I have been with this part of my family. We reminisced and laughed so much. The good, good memories of growing up in our highly dysfunctional families came to the surface and it was good for my soul! I lovingly call them My Big Fat Italian Family. We grew up close together. There is a bond with them that is much like a bond between siblings. Something so deep because we share not only the same DNA we also share so many memories, both good and bad. I like this quote by Marion Garretty: “A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” I remembered this weekend how much I love all of them. We share so much in common and that commonality bonds us for life.
Again, I do not know how anyone gets through the most challenging of times without faith. I guess you really don’t. Whether you have faith in God or the Universe or not it is still a matter of faith. Faith in whatever it is that gets you through. For me faith is about the transforming love I find in Jesus and the people that are conduits of that love knowingly or not. I love VCC and the Vineyard and I am so grateful to be a part of this family.
I cannot leave out friends. Rich and I have some of the best friends on the planet. Friends have provided so much love and support. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends. Old friends and new ones we have met over the last year are treasures that we don’t ever want to take for granted.
So today I sit in a calm sea of gratefulness. It is like floating on an air mattress in the Mediterranean off the coast of Positano listening to Italians on holiday, smelling the sea air and basking in sunlight.
All I can say today is thank you for every prayer, every good thought, and every gift.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines recovery as:
• the act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury : the act or process of recovering
• : the act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty
• : the return of something that has been lost, stolen, etc.
The first and third sentences above describe the process I am in. There will be no returning to a normal state after this past year but there will be a new normal. I have small glimpses of what the new normal will be but there will be no returning to the old normal.
I am very much in the process of becoming healthy from heart disease. I am very much in the process of seeing how what has been lost and stolen is returning in new and beautiful ways.
I have been letting grief and sorrow have their voice. It’s not pretty but necessary. If the loss of the last year does not get to express itself then I am doing my heart no favors in hope of a new normal.
I was sharing my deep sadness and anger with someone recently and they said to me, “You are right on track, I was waiting for you to get in touch with the anger and sadness but you could not until you were out of ‘survival’ mode.”
Today I am practicing gratefulness for my life just as it is. With all the questions to be held, mystery, sadness, anger and goodness and beauty I am grateful. I am grateful for an amazing family, the best of friends and for a church community that practices the way of Jesus.
They showed the broken rhythm of my heart
With inky ripples traced in peaks and troughs
The night when sudden life was torn apart
Left echoes like a dry persistant cough
This paper trail more signature of self
Than any scribbled scrawl of given names
More indication of my vital health
Than any poet’s talk of light or flames
My quick survival charted there as fact.
“And here, you see a murmured aftershock”
The remnant spider scribe of heart attack
My ailing pulse, my brittle ticking tock
Once took a moment’s beat to catch its breath
And left me reeling at the edge of death.
Four months ago today I was admitted into the hospital after tests showed my heart was extremely damaged. I am still very much in recovery mode yet I have improved in ways unexpected by my doctors. I absolutely believe that my heart is healing from receiving so much prayer, love and support. I am learning how to listen to my body and pace myself. I feel like my body aged twenty years overnight. There are many things I cannot do. For example, I don’t think it would be wise to go on roller coasters quite yet! I probably could get away with “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” or, “It’s a Small World.”
In many ways the past four months have been like riding a roller coaster. My cardiologist warned me over and over that depression is a very real thing during recovery from a heart condition. While I have not gone into a full on depression, I have definitely had my moments! My life changed in a moment. There was no leading up to it, no planning for it, it just happened. I thought I had bronchitis, I learned I had a serious heart condition and then everything changed. My friend, Bill Faris did a talk on Transitions. I have heard him give it a few times. His thoughts have come back to me many times in the past few months, “Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.” Bridges’ Transition Model
Change happened to me quickly. Transition is very much where I find myself today. The first stage of transition is ending and letting go. There is a lot of letting go. Letting go is painful. It is like little deaths. Little deaths physically, emotionally, socially and in many other ways have come. Some have come rather abruptly and harsh while others came in the most gentle way. This letting go is teaching me. Teaching me to surrender, to live in mystery and know that there is not always an answer. Teaching me to name my fear, my anger and sadness. Teaching me that confusion and disorientation is not my new normal but a way through. Teaching me to name and grieve the loss. Teaching me to create a lot of space for the unknown. Teaching me that it is okay to color for hours, kiss my grandkids every moment I can and to say “Thank you” over and over throughout the day when I realize how loved and blessed I am.
I am in no hurry.
No place I’d rather be