Excerpts from the book

Chapter One: Love Story

THERE ARE ONLY two ways to live a life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
— Albert Einstein

The ambulance driver, a wiry, dark haired young man with calm, hazel eyes, warned, “Don’t try to keep up with us. Too many accidents happen that way.” I nodded.

Numb and shaky, I got in my car and slipped onto the road behind the ambulance. The two lanes of M-43 twist and turn like a lazy snake, giving few opportunities for passing. With a truck ahead of me doing the speed limit, I knew it would be about a 50 minute drive to the hospital in Kalamazoo.

At the stoplight on Blue Star Highway, I pulled out my cell phone and quick-dialed Tom, our family doctor. He took care of both of my parents before they passed, and has been my own doctor for a long time. We’ve shared a great deal over the years and have become deep and lasting friends. I asked him if he would meet me at the hospital for moral support. “I don’t want to be there alone,” I said. Tom said he was on his way.

Clutching the steering wheel, I willed myself not to cry so I could see the road ahead. What’s happening with Pete’s heart? Is he still breathing? Is he going to die? At that point we had only been married for nine months. We were still riding high on honeymoon hormones. Is it all going to come crashing down? Will he be taken away from me so soon? We just found each other! What’s going through Pete’s mind? Uh ... Is anything going through his mind? I mean ... is he even conscious?

I said a prayer ... a dozen prayers. Then I pleaded: Please, please, dear God - I have to know. Is he going to make it? I listened, listened hard. And then, with a simple certainty and an undeniable clarity, I knew. Without words, without images, a “knowing” settled down, deep inside of me. He would make it. Dear God, he would make it - but there were some things he would have to go through first.

That’s what this book is about.

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Chapter Three: July 3, 2008

Pete is in a double room. His roommate, a very chatty, morbidly obese young man, is waiting for a hip replacement. Today Pete had just finished eating a little breakfast, and I was there, reading a piece from the newspaper to him. The other fellow in the room was watching CNN on the TV. A middle-aged woman with short brown hair, friendly eyes, and a competent manner came in and introduced herself as Ruth Halben, the social worker who worked with cardiac patients and their families. I liked her right away, and would come enjoy her sense of humor and trust her judgement.

“I’m here to explain the procedures for evaluating patients for heart transplants and to answer any questions you might have.” She must have seen our eyes open wide and our jaws drop. “No one has mentioned the possibility of a heart transplant to you?”

“Uh - no.” I said.

“I hate it when they do this to me,” she sighed, and sat down.

I took a deep breath and asked, “Are they considering a heart transplant for Pete?”

“Yes,” she said. “It looks like that is the direction they are heading. They have tried to treat him with medicine, but his heart is too damaged.”

Pete lay there, stunned. I felt a little dizzy myself.

Ruth told us that Pete would have to undergo a number of tests to see if he was eligible to be placed on the heart transplant list. If he qualified, then ...

I don’t know how much I absorbed from what she was saying. My mind was racing through all the ramifications, all the concerns. I shook my head in disbelief and tried to keep breathing. I watched Pete as Ruth was talking, and tried to read his response, but his face was blank. I wondered how much he was taking in.

Ruth had us sign some papers and left us with a pile of pamphlets and information sheets. She said we could call her any time if we had questions. After she left, Pete and I looked at each other for a long time without speaking. Then one of us — I forget which one — said, “Wow!”

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Chapter Fourteen: Update Friday, September 19, 2008 at 11:54 a.m.

When I walk to the edge of all the light I have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown I believe one of two things will happen: there will be something solid for me to stand on ... or I will be taught to fly!
— S. Martin Edges

Dear Ones —
Life flows on — and we make little steps along the way. Yesterday Pete had his first session with the speech therapist here in South Haven. She administered sections of an aphasia test, the same test that he had at U. of M. Hospital a couple of weeks ago. It tests his thinking processes and language. He did much, much better this time. Apparently his brain is creating new pathways where the old ones were damaged. There is still a long way to go, but this is very encouraging.

Some of you have commented that you see me as courageous, as well as Pete. I guess that is so. A long time ago I learned that I have many more reserves than I thought I had. We all do. When the difficult times come, somehow those reserves tap us on the shoulder and say, “Remember me?” It reminds me of a song I wrote a couple of years ago. Part of it goes like this:

Well, I've shed a tear or two with the troubles I've been through,
And I wondered why it had to be.
But I do what I have to do when there's nothing else to do,
And there's always something there sustaining me.
Inescapable love, irresistible grace,
When I open my eyes, when I open my heart,
It's all over the place.
In the air that we breathe,
And the smile on your face,
Inescapable love, irresistible grace.

Funny how my own lyrics have come back to me with new meaning in light of all that has happened to us this year. It underscores for me the belief that the things we create when we are in-spired are indeed co-creations.

So — yes — we have courage. And so do you. Maybe you don't even know it yet. I didn't. But I know now.


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