Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Lessons of an Ailing Heart


For LOHASIAN regular readers - the quiet of the last week might might have come as a surprise, as we have been daily since our launch in October of 07'. I decided to pull back from editing and writing for the last week to deal with some unexpected family health issues - specifically some heavy duty heart surgery of my father. It's quite easy to write, edit and generally absorb yourself with thought of a more mindful life when life works without unexpected turns or real challenges, but when faced with life and death issues talk and words offers little and perhaps quiet is the most abundance one can ask for.

The last two weeks since dad landed in the hospital have been an extraordinary journey. A healthy seventy year old man still working full time as an attorney, my father resembled in many ways what we all hope for as we age; a full head of dark hair, a face with a "perma-smile" on it, a seemingly fit body and a laser sharp mind. That is why it was particularly disturbing to find out that this man was ridden with severe heart disease. Never a smoker, not really drinker by any stretch of the imagination, thin, and free of diabetes dad's illness of the heart offered more questions then answers. How does a man with no medical problems of any kind develop a heart condition requiring a quadruple bypass and two arterial surgeries?

As the drama of multiple hospitals, slates of doctors, endless tests, 2 surgeries, a few complications and the horrors of post op all came to a massive climax - I could not help but constantly ask myself - how? How did this happen? As I looked at my dad the day after his surgery laying in bed I realized that underneath the smile, the busy schedules, the endless optimism, was a man who had carried more stress in his life than I could ever imagine. The smile he "put on it" (all of it) offered a fine distraction for his audience and perhaps a momentary elixir to his spirits, but all the pressures of his life burrowed in him like parasites, and in his veins, creeped towards his center. The stresses, too many to list, and some too personal to discuss here, were always carried with a disarming ease. Perhaps we all should have known it would, as they say, eventually all catch up.

The day after dad's surgery I stood by his bed and looked him - my heart ached seeing his swollen bruised body fighting for survival, and yet I smiled at him when he looked up, just as he always had to me. The anger,fear, and sadness of seeing him in this state was glossed over with one big reassuring smile that it would all be OK and most of all, to not let him know how hard it was for me. He did this for me, and for everyone else, for all of his life - carrying the weight of conflict and difficulty covered up with endless smiles, positive words and and a seeming ease of being. Perhaps it's easy to mislead the world, even yourself, but the impact of the truth of our lives on our bodies and spirits is ultimately inescapable. Our cells devour our sorrow with equal voracity as they do our joy - even if it never makes it to the surface.

Tomorrow my dad goes home. He has a long road to recovery. All the doctors speak of healthy eating, light exercise and patience as the recipe for recovery. I would add to that list a daily diet of emotional and spiritual inventory taking upon which he can base the construct his life on. I would suggest more doses of honest self expression...maybe more genuine smiling and less smiling to cover up the pains of life. I prescribe more honest tears for him, when necessary, and even healthy doses of wildly expressed rage (in moderate quantities..for the moment ). Perhaps as dad, and the rest of us move forward, we can all learn the valuable lessons of his heart...that truth might "know no enemies," unless you make an enemy of truth itself.

*Note: The Lohasian will resume it's normal publishing schedule by Monday July 14, 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you and your dad are in our thoughts and prayers. from of all of us at mindbodygreen.