Jesus’ message about the healing of 10 lepers reflects many of my own experiences of God’s healing and my thankfulness to him for his mercy and grace in the last 8 months and I’d like the opportunity to share with you how God, Jesus, has mercifully been there for me when I needed his comfort most.
As many of you know I had a heart attack last summer that, statistically, should have killed me. My odds of surviving were 50/50. I knew this statistic from the previous study and I was horrified at the possible consequence of the predicament I found myself in. I was confused and upset because I had done everything right – I thought. I had faithfully eaten the Canadian government approved “Heart Smart” diet – I had kept thin – I never had any pains or big medical problems. I never smoked and I only had a shot of booze on birthdays. I was always careful. I had no hint this was coming and then BAM!!!
I was in the middle of the first battle of my life where I knew I was no longer in control. I’ve had my trials and tribulations in life but I always felt in control – there was always tomorrow to finish what I couldn’t finish today. There was always a sense of security knowing that I was healthy and able to cope with whatever came my way. I always slept well knowing I’d wake up in the morning and that I’d done whatever I thought I should have in the previous day to justify my existence. I had always “known” that I was going to be at least 80 before I would have to deal with any of this personally. I’d made it to 48 without a hitch – I was almost immortal.
Suddenly there was a good chance that there was no tomorrow and there was a realization that everything I had come to take for granted didn’t count for anything anymore. Everything I knew previously now had no place in this situation. Everything I believed about myself had no meaning. I was completely cut loose – adrift – wondering if I’d ever go home again. For 3 and 1/2 days I waited for the angiogram that would show the doctors and myself how badly my pump had been damaged by this event. For 3 and 1/2 days we cried, we worried, we prayed. These were some of the longest days of our lives. We shared our collective pain and my pain was magnified 100 times in the eyes of those who came to see me – possibly for the last time – in their lives. We worried – how would my family survive without me? How would we pay the bills? What would life be like without me?
Not knowing was awful – it was the worst – it seemed to suffocate all hope, all life, out of all of us. We all knew that from this point on that nothing could be taken for granted and that each moment might be my last. We felt compelled to say our part and make peace with whatever had been put off for whatever reason in the past. We all groped for a sense of meaning and reason for the struggle we all found ourselves in. We said what we had to say to each other and then we sat there waiting …… waiting for the judge’s proclamation and the inevitable executioner’s next blow. Those were dark days. Waiting for news – any news. All I could say or pray was “God have mercy on my soul” it was simple and there wasn’t anything else left to say. God knew my heart – I simply didn’t need to dress it up any more than that.
I finally had the angiogram and discovered that I had 3 blocked arteries around the left side of my heart. They were blocked 90, 80 and 70% – thankfully they weren’t completely blocked but my heart was complaining as it struggled to get enough oxygen to breathe and faithfully pump blood throughout the rest of my body. I suddenly felt hopeful – maybe a pill would fix it – maybe a stent would fix it – at least I wasn’t going to die yet. And then they declared – you need triple bypass surgery – immediately. They stepped back expecting a big scene – I expect – but I just laid there grinning from ear to ear – I felt like I had won the lottery. All I could think is – god is good – thank you.
When I returned to the room and my waiting family they must have thought I was on happy juice because I was literally jumping for joy. I felt relieved – the unknown didn’t own us anymore.
I also felt very thankful – I praised the Lord – for he is good – always.
The next week went quickly as we waited for an opening in Vancouver to have the surgery done and during this week I began to see just how blessed I had been by this event. I felt well enough to have a long series of 5-minute visits for 8 hours a day. The ward called my room the party room because there was always laughter and friendship and sharing as people I hadn’t seen for decades started to file through the door to wish me their best and to confess that they wanted to say something to me they should have said a long time ago or how I had touched their lives and how thankful they were for something I had long ago forgotten.
I was humbled by this incredible shower of affection that I would never have thought that I deserved. God was gently nudging me towards the realization that I was blessed much more than I had ever imagined. God was showing me that my life was not in vain and that I should rest now knowing that my life was in his hands and that even if I died in the next week that my life had made a difference.
It suddenly occurred to me that I had just experienced an incredible gift – I had the privilege of visiting with and hearing the kind words of the very same people that would have attended my funeral. In a number of cases I had heard their eulogy without having to die first – as strange as this felt sometimes – I felt blessed again. Honestly – how many of us get to have that experience before we die? Not many – I expect – because many of us die too quickly and tragically for this to happen to them in such a gentle and loving way.
During that week of waiting – I often found myself wondering how I would react at the last moment just before they put you under for the operation. I wondered this because the odds weren’t great – 1 in 20 don’t make it through heart surgery – this is very scary when you do the math. I considered not having the surgery and trying alternate therapies – I consulted with doctors, friends and family. I asked God. And I received just as many answers from everyone.
Ultimately, I was left with faith – faith that all would work out for the best – and that if that meant death – that I would receive the mercy and grace that God had promised.
For the first time in my life I was completely at peace with God, myself and my destiny – this – coming from a guy that questions everything and from a guy that always thought I’d be kicking all the way to the grave. I was ready to go – to face whatever was next – and to accept God’s judgment on my life. From that moment on I never gave my fate another thought – all I could do was give thanks – for God is good.
Brothers, Sisters, I have to share with you – the peace that I felt – I know it was a blessing from God and I believe that I can now better understand how so many others pass so willingly into the night when their time comes. I felt a peace that is beyond all expression – a peace that comes with understanding – the understanding that the life we experience here on earth is just one stage in a journey filled with mystery and awe. I don’t know what is next but I look forward to feeling that peace again when it is time. Don’t worry – I’m not rushing it any but I am confident that when my time comes I will be ready, willing and able to let go – to let God take me into his arms and carry me across the threshold of death to eternal light. This I believe with all my heart and soul and mind.
A number of people have asked me “Weren’t you scared of dying?” My answer to all of you who ask this – no – I am afraid of surviving – the pain and struggle of surviving have to be much worse than the peace of dying. In the 2 weeks that I spent on the cardiac ward, I witnessed more suffering than I could have imagined – many of these people were surviving but their existence was hideous. In the subsequent months of painful and pitiful recovery I personally experienced even more suffering than I could have imagined and I also discovered how resilient my own spirit was and how quickly I came to appreciate every waking hour in every day. Food never tasted sweeter, sleep never felt better, fresh air never smelled as good as it did now and the feeling of gratitude for God’s gifts in my life grew bigger every day. To this day I am thankful that I survived, that I am healing physically and that I have an opportunity to praise God. My simple one-line prayer has changed to two lines “God, please have mercy on my soul and thank you for your mercy and grace that I have received. Thank you, Lord.”
I have struggled for months with how do I pray better to show my appreciation even more and for the life of me I just can’t do a better job than I am at the moment. I know that I often hear a great prayer that touches my heart and think to myself – why can’t I come up with something like that? I can only conclude that I simply have to study a lot more and reflect on the miracle of his love and the words will come. So ….. I’ve been trying and little pieces of really great stuff are starting to come together but ultimately I believe that God knows what is in my heart and will judge me for my love not for my inability to stitch a beautifully crafted prayer together. Maybe one day I’ll be able to pray as well as my son, Danny can do but for now, I just have to accept that it’s not there ….. yet.
Life has changed a lot for me and my family. We still struggle from day to day with all of those normal things that everyone else struggles with but we do it with a thankfulness that we are all still together. We also realize that our time is probably shorter than planned and therefore more precious – hopefully not taken for granted as much as it once was. We also changed a number of things that we have control of in order to improve our odds for a pain-free life with as little physical suffering as possible. I spent the last 8 months reading, recuperating and getting very upset that most of what I suffered could have been prevented by a change in diet and exercise.
Nobody told me and I can assure you that I would have listened if it had been spelled out to me – I’m not stupid and I didn’t think I was ignorant but now I know I was because nobody told me and I believed all of the self serving propaganda delivered by every special interest group. I became so incensed by this realization that I have decided to publish a new website dedicated to educating the public about just how gullibly we are being led to the slaughter and how 90% of the physical suffering that we experience in North America and Northern Europe can be avoided. I can prove it with factual research and no doctor I’ve asked can refute it – the evidence is clear – we all need to take better responsibility for our lives and welfare. The most startling thing to me was how easy it is to do – we all just need a reason – mine is simply that I don’t want to suffer like this again if I can help it.
I know I won’t change the world as much as I’d like to but I also know that I will change the world more than I can imagine if I keep my eye on the Lord and heed his call. God has my attention and I’m listening although I haven’t heard a message yet that has any clear instructions on what I should do next but he knows that I am willing to serve when I’m called by him.
One of the most amazing things I experienced was how the Lord provides – we were living from paycheck to paycheck with no savings and still do but when the chips were down and we had no where to go – friends – who owe me nothing – showed up and paid our monthly mortgage payments – food showed up at our door. Strength and comfort met us at every turn with each phone call and visit we received. We were never lonely or alone – we were blessed.
The Lord did provide and he provided abundantly to a sinner who never thought he would have deserved it.
Thank you Lord. Amen.