In a matter of weeks, or maybe a few months, my heart will stop beating for the first time. After more than 43 years of activity, beating an average of 40 million times a year it will fall still and silent.
The plan is that having been cooled to stop it’s instinctive and life-giving movement, and the flow of blood diverted to complex machinery, a team of surgeons will operate, make some adjustments, before some other machine will shock it back into action again.
You see, I was diagnosed last November with an incompetent aortic valve which needs to be replaced or I will die sooner than I had hoped or planned. The journey of adjusting to this information has been an interesting and enlightening one, and one which has not yet been completed.
To date I have resisted blogging anything about it, though sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the appearance of health related posts in recent months. I have resisted it for a lot of reasons. I don’t want to be defined by my condition, though a degree of that will become necessary as the years (hopefully) go on. Nor do I want this blog to become a confessional diary of what I did or how I felt today, nor a exposition of open heart surgery. And, if I’m honest, I’m a private person, and the details of my condition are mine and my family’s.
But as I have been coming to terms with the awareness of serious illness I have become more aware of my religious culture’s discomfort with the reality of mortality, weakness, suffering and death (all cheerful stuff). As an incredibly healthy person until recently, I have had to look hard for spiritual resources in our relentlessly triumphant church environment which are robust enough to guide me on the way ahead. Whose going to want to sell/buy a book on this stuff, or write praise music about it?
What I’m going to try to do is use my current circumstances as a starting point for some reflection. I don’t imagine that it will be everyone’s beverage of choice, but there might be something here for you or for someone you know. The blog will not become about this matter alone, it won’t even primarily be about this, but I will salt a few posts away over the coming weeks and months that might just make you think a little about the ultimate questions.
Someone told me recently, that surgery changes you. You are not the same person after a visit to theatre. I genuinely hope and pray that is the case, in all ways. I know that the change has begun, and that I need to write about it. Maybe you’ll want to come along at least part of the way.