Monday, January 28, 2013

Beginnings & Endings – Part 3

Saturday I attended two funeral in one day – a record for me.  One of those was a man a year younger than I that I grew up with. The other a lady 3 years younger who was the oldest daughter of an older couple who have been and continue to be  “pillars  of  faith” in our church family. 

When I first became an elder at the church her father was one of the other elders (he is now  90+ and  retired  as an elder over 10 years ago). Her mother  served as a Bible  teacher for many years and had one of the most amazing abilities to recognize a Bible quote and give Chapter & verse of anyone I’ve ever known – her health has deteriorated and  she has lost some of   her “edge” but still can outdo many in that regard.

The first funeral was in Thessalon  (an hour drive one-way) at 10 a.m. and the second was here at 3:00. For the second I had a role (prayer & scripture reading) which was a little more demanding and stressful .

By Saturday night I was ready to crash and we spent the evening watching a couple of movies via Netflix. 

This morning I found out that my consult with the cardiac surgeon is this Thursday .

This leads me back to my ”beginnings and endings” theme .  In the first  two parts I set some context that had already lead me to thinking more and more about my own mortality and the need to be prepared “for the worst” while always (with an acknowledgement of ‘if the Lord is willing’) planning for the best.

Finding out about my heart problems, and sitting in these funerals ,  listening to the tributes  certainly has increased  my  thinking  about  ‘endings’  and, in a way, has made my thinking about these things over that past year seem  “good”. (perhaps an example of  the good that can be found in ‘bad’ things as described in Romans 8:28)

So far I’ve talked mostly about endings - the endings of lives – and the ending of my (almost 70 year) run of “perfect health.

Today I want talk about the response to those endings – those losses that “hit us like a ton of bricks”.

I have often reflected before on the fact that it seemed these things so often happened to others  and I was thankful (and oddly at times felt guilty) that they didn’t happen to me.

It seems that over the past several years  “endings” have been a more frequent  and closer to home. Being reminded of the fleeting nature of life me led  to  a  my renewed commitment for 2013 to  “Live in the now as if it’s the last day while at the same time making plans for  the future” .

In part 2,  I described some of the events  that led to  an echocardiogram last Tuesday and finding out that I have  I have a “very tight” (diseased) aortic valve.

I remember hearing the Doctor say those words

“ “It needs to be replaced – I’m referring you to a surgeon”

 “You are have a 10 times increase in the risk of “sudden cardiac death”

 (that seemed very blunt – couldn’t he have  softened it by saying  cardiac failure – but I understand he needs to speak the truth and the truth is that the risk is 10 times higher for me than for someone with no heart disease (and other risk factors) )

Now this is certainly less of a loss than a wife learning that her husband has died or a parent learning that their child has died. I know that – and I can’t really imagine how much of a shock that must be.  But it still ranks up there as a serious loss – after all I was the one that never had a hint of serious illness – I thought that would last forever (or at least for another 20 or 30 years.  

But that was before  – now I was “vincible” (actually I started to say “I was no longer invincible” and wondered if vincible was a word – it is!!)

Conventional wisdom in my circles would be that I would be go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief .  You know the stages known by the acronym DABDA; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

(As an aside – and I think I may do a post on this  sometime soon – when looking up the Kubler-Ross model I discovered that there are some competing models  for how people deal with loss which may better represent what I’ve been experiencing over the past week)

I can honestly say that it wasn’t shocking – I didn’t feel any terror or panic or denial (saying  it can’t be I want a second opinion – etc.) in fact  I don’t think I’m experiencing anger, that I’ve  thought of bargaining, that I’ve been  or will be depressed   (a least not in a major way) –,.

 I wanted to know about this disease and the surgical options – I wanted to  be prepared  and  do my part  so I can “hope for” (Biblical usage – meaning confidently expect)  the best possible outcome and I want to be prepared for the worst and this means  I want to get my affairs in order “just in case”. So I have researched these things and made a renewed effort to “get my affairs in order” -- you know “plan for the worst and hope for the best”

So I think  I’ve moved  immediately to acceptance – and action – and  I have my faith in God to thank for that.  It seemed coincidental but Linda and I had just  listened to a video from her ladie’s class that  talked about  “Job’s phrase “The Lord gives & the Lord takes away – Blessed be the name of the Lord” . I also thought of  Paul’ s statement in Phillipians  “whatever state I’m in I’ve learned to be content”   – and  when occasionally I sense a bit of  depression or anxiety I am reminded  of the man who after Jesus healed his child said “ Lord I believe – help me in my unbelief”.

In any case my emotional response is mostly

a)      sadness – the loss of my ability to say I’m in perfect health” – the loss of my ability to “pick up and go” – the loss of my ability to step up if someone needs a hand to move something, to help a neighbor dig out of the snow,  to take a day and go skiing with my daughter when she comes home  next weekend

b)      disappointment (a bit irrational because it’s not my fault –   and it’s out of my control) but none the less disappointment – I have failed Linda, my family and others  around me because I can no longer say  “I’m  available and able to  do whatever needs to be done” (well of course I’m not superman and that “whatever” had limitations of strength and skills – but it  is (for now) severely restricted. It is really tough to not be able to snowblow the driveway or go for a brisk walk in the snow lined trails on a  crisp  sunny day.

c)       Impatience – let’s get on with this – and that too is a bit irrational since things are  falling together and moving along very quickly so far

 Well as I’ve said – I’m not completely sure where I’m going with this but I’m thinking  that this is the end of talking about endings and losses and I will now move to   some topics related to beginnings – in this case beginning to learn how to live after major surgery. 


God Bless


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