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The Gift of Life

They say kids express their feelings through art;
our 12 year old son drew this picture shortly after I got home from the hospital.
--our family was together and whole once again..

Recently, I was the recipient of a remarkable gift after having suffered a heart attack on March 8th; I received the gift of life.  To that end, I cannot say enough good things about the doctors, and cardiac PA's and nursing staff at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City who not only caught it in time (it happened right when I got to ER), but who labored intently to reverse the damage.  They performed a flawless open-heart operation days later to help ensure lasting success to all their efforts.  Their skilled and professional follow-up care while I was in the hospital was such an encouragement to me.  No doubt, I feel incredibly privileged to even be here right now, knowing I am indebted to God alone for making this gift possible.

While I'm home recovering now...and will be for three months family and I have also been the recipients of a lot of grace; that's not such an easy thing to accept, especially when it's more in our nature to give, rather than to receive.  While we have received so many beautiful cards, letters, and emails (close to 100 of them to-date), phone calls with well-wishes from around the country are still coming in fairly steady.  People have just been unbelievably kind in their outreach, teaching me a great deal about the fine art of compassion-in-action.  It's one thing to ask, what would Jesus do? It's quite another to just go ahead and do it with abandon; the latter is what we have been so humbled to experience.

One area where this is most evident is in the gift of people's time and talents, especially as they prepare meals and bring them over, and spend time with either me or my wife Shannon (or both), knowing that she's carrying the ball for the whole family right now; a daunting and wearying task at times.
Curried Lentil Soup with Garlic Vienna Bread
~a warm gift from dear friend, Robin Fouch

I absolutely LOVE to cook; Robin's package
was just what the Dr. ordered!
Only allowed to drink decaf coffee, dear friend Danielle Arens
delivered her and her husband's Leelanau Roasting Company best
decaf roast.  Danielle also surprised us with lots of food, and even a
special gift basket for Shannon - Wow!

But it's our Up North friends and family who have displayed some incredible talent; many came to sit with me in the hospital before, during and after my surgery...and continued after I left the hospital.  Others just showed up at our home, sometimes un-announced, with bags of lite groceries and fresh food they'd prepared.  Their hospitality has been truly humbling, not to mention inspirational as their kindness continues to kindle the warmth of human compassion that helps us through the remnants of a cold winter.

Some wonderful lessons are already emerging from this experience I aim to put into practice immediately as I'm able:
- I have learned that if I treat everyone with compassion, as if they were hurting, there's a pretty good chance that I'll hit it right about 90% of the time.
- I have learned that if I meet someone who has just come through the kind of experience I have, rather than ask them if I can do anything to help, I will take the initiative and just tell them when I will be over to drop off a meal, or just to spend some time sitting with them.
- I have learned that when I encounter someone who has just lost a loved one (and I just dealt with people in the hospital in that category), I will not hold my peace, afraid of 'what to say', but will quietly affirm and pray with them, then sit and hold their hand or be near until the storm passes.
- I have learned that there are times when the greatest gift you may give someone is the gift of your presence, and your time. You don't even have to say anything; just being with someone who is hurting is huge, like a great anchor that holds on a solid rock in the storms of life.
- I have learned that when you are at a loss as to what to do for someone, stop and pray for them.  There were nights when I was in the hospital when I felt helpless and alone.  Rather than dwell on those feelings, I either grabbed my IV-stand and slowly walked the halls in the middle of the night praying for the other people on the same cardiac floor I was on -- some of whom may have been in worse shape than me (not unlike what 'Mr. Bridges' did in the movie "Facing The Giants"), or tried to encourage other patients by day when we were shuffling up and down those same halls together.  There is something profoundly powerful about helping others through their trials, that provides something akin to healing medicine to help you get through your own.

Do take time to remind those that you love...that you love them. Use words when necessary, but ensure that those feelings are demonstrated daily.  As I recently discovered by painful experience, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, but we do have today to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Somehow, just being Up North helps remind me of the many blessings of home and family, and of the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds us here that is so healing to both heart and soul.

Thanks for your friendship.  Here's wishing you a blessed Up North springtime.  Soli Deo Gloria.
Our first "post surgery" family outing.  A brisk walk around the Open Space
at the foot of West Grand Traverse Bay - Heavenly!

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