Sewing Hope Into Broken Hearts
July 20, 2013

The Healing of a Mended Heart

Just over a month ago, I underwent open-heart surgery, it was the third heart surgery I’ve had and hopefully the last one I’ll need. My previous surgeries happened before I turned two years old, so needless to say I don’t remember them. The scars left by the operations I had as an infant represented parental worry stemming from a profound love of me; their firstborn child, deep concern from family and friends, impeccable skill and care from healthcare professionals, and abundant prayers lifted up in my name. Intellectually, that knowledge about my first two surgeries was sewn into my heart; it has always been a part of who I am as a rather unique child of God. Certainly, their results impacted my life. I suffered a stroke that weakened my left side because of one of the many different procedures I had in the first two years of my life and had some learning disabilities growing up, but the physical pain and suffering of heart surgery was not part of my childhood or adolescence. In a strange and surreal way, until about a month ago I didn’t have to experience heart surgery; it existed a long time ago in a different world where memory didn’t exist.

So, when I found out eighteen months ago that I needed this most recent heart surgery, things got very real, very quick. It is hard to convey on paper, but the anticipation of how you are going to feel, thoughts of what is the pain going to be like, and a constant conversation with God asking him, “Do you think I am really this tough? You’re going to enable me to handle all this…right? Because I think I’m about at my threshold” was part of every day in some, way shape or form. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from the preparation for heart surgery is while the anxiety and worry never seemed to fade, neither did my faith. When God was seemingly silent (most of the time I was just impatient) or the days were too difficult or unbearable it only strengthened my faith. I kept shouting out “Hey God I need you” knowing that like an echo, a reply was eventually going to return from the distant mountain I was facing.

As my locomotive charged full steam ahead toward the mountain of heart surgery last month, God’s action in my life became more evident. I celebrated the Sacraments frequently, prayed with family and friends, and took time to quiet myself in prayer. I prepared well, was supported by thousands of people praying and a host of saints interceding for me. It seemed that before I could have a second thought it was time for surgery and I awoke to find the summit of the mountain was in the rear-view mirror. No need to go into the details, but I will tell you that open-heart surgery is most certainly a difficult mountain, but it was manageable only because I had faith.

In the month following the surgery, I have learned a lot about healing, a process that is not yet complete. Most frequently in my recent contemplation's I am reminded of a saying of Fr. Clement Machado, “miracles require the appropriate preparation and response.” I must heal and respond to the miracle (albeit by ordinary means, it still is a miracle by my standards) of a successful heart surgery by putting the same amount of prayer and care into recovering as I did preparing. So, healing in a way is reflexive of preparation. It requires time, careful thought, hard work, and being attentive to self-care. Most of all, healing requires lifting up many prayers of thanksgiving to God for a beating heart as I look off at the next mountain in the distance