Five days before my 48th birthday, my life took an unexpected 90-degree turn. I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and received a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. (With CHF, the heart still pumps, but not efficiently. At that time, it was almost always fatal.)
Really? Me? I felt totally healthy, was a full-time senior past of a large church, was married, had two sons in college, and an active life. Heart failure was a total surprise.
I knew enough about heart disease to realize this was serious. Doctors, family, and friends would do their part to help, but there was much that only I could do. I reduced my stress, changed my diet, brought my life into a healthier balance. I altered my priorities and my definition of success. As the Hebrew Bible says, I “chose life.”
It made a difference. Even though my heart was too damaged to recover fully, it responded well enough that I kept working for another four years.
Then my cardiologist said I had to make another set of choices: “You can keep doing what you’re doing and shorten your life or resign from your position and maybe live longer.” If the heart diagnosis had turned my life direction 90 degrees, this news turned my life upside down.
I had been a Presbyterian pastor for twenty-six years and loved it. But I chose life again, resigned my pastorate, and stepped into the void.
It’s been more than ten years since I left the pastorate and more than fourteen since my original diagnosis. In 2016, my heart failure became severe again and I received a bi-ventricular defibrillator. It’s working well and I have another chance at life. I’m tired of picking myself up and pushing forward, but I’m not ready for the alternative. So, here I go again.
Through it all, I am grateful for life. For husband, family, and friends who love me. For gardens and mountains, good food and books. For faith and communities of faith. For ways to use my experience, gifts, time, and energy for good in the world and in common life.
I write about my values, living mindfully, and current issues. I write about the frustrations and joys of ordinary life. One of my favorite books begins, “Life is hard.” Yes, it is. It is also filled with beauty and moments of grace that are amplified when we notice them and give thanks.
As Inspector Armand Gamache says in The Long Way Home, “What’s the use of healing if the life that’s saved is callow and selfish and ruled by fear?” I want to live well, a life that carries the fragrance of kindness and grace. That type of life vibrates–sometimes boldly and sometimes quietly–with courage, resilience, mindfulness, and hope. Join me in that kind of life.