Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Heart of the Matter

Sunday will be a momentous anniversary for me, marking three years since undergoing open heart surgery. It’s both humbling and sobering to have your chest splayed open to repair arterial blockages and, in my case, replace an enlarged ascending aorta.

I was blessed to have a foremost cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Morrison, assisted by a top-notch surgical team. But for about 30 minutes during my six-hour surgery, my heart was literally stopped and my body cooled to about 82 degrees while a heart-lung machine kept blood coursing to my brain. I virtually stood at death’s door, but thankfully did not remain there. Each new day represents a gift from God. (My heart pillow, shown at right, which aided my recovery, serves as a reminder.)

There’s a curious thing about the heart: Scientists and physicians typically regard it solely as an organ pumping blood throughout the body. However, even an intellect like Albert Einstein recognized more than physiological value in the heart. He observed, “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”

Philosophers, poets and spiritually minded people have long considered the heart as the seat of emotions, even the source of love. For instance, Mark Twain said, “One learns people through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.” And Charles Dickens wrote, “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”

The Bible advises, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Elsewhere in the book God exhorts His followers, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you…write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3), and “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2), affirming that faith requires more than cerebral pursuit.

How the heart performs its physical, emotional – and spiritual – functions in tandem exceeds my understanding. But approaching this huge milestone in my life probably stronger and healthier than I’ve been in decades, to those who cared for me, as well as all who prayed and offered encouragement, I simply say:
Thank you, with all my heart!

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