When I was seventeen I learned that my days were numbered. I had a cardiac arrest. I was a senior in high school and our football team was in the district championship. The game was intense, and I was on the sidelines as a cheerleader catching every play in living color. This game, this senior experience, is why I had stayed in Florida. Three months earlier my family had moved to Texas. I begged my parents to let me stay with my grandmother, just for the fall, just for one more semester. They agreed.
So there I was at the big game, so thankful and so excited. Cheerleaders are supposed to get excited but I must have overdone it. There was a huge upset in the game and I went crazy jumping and screaming wildly. The next play was called and my team pressed on. Everyone stood frozen in focused anticipation. I was right there with them, standing still, my breathing slowed. My heart did not.
Two hours later, the game was long over and our team had won but my heart was still racing like there was a tie score with twenty seconds on the clock. Only I wasn’t on the sidelines anymore, I was in the hospital emergency room. Alarm emanated from the faces that floated in and out around me as they frantically worked to insert lines, attach wires, and instruct me in methods to trigger my cardiac rhythm back to normal. The arteries in my neck were aching but, other than that, I was relatively unaffected.
I heard snippets of conversations as nurses passed each other on the way in or out, “Where are her parents?” “Let her grandmother know, she is in the waiting room,” “Her rate is holding at 220,” “Is he concerned about a stroke”, “Her grandmother looked a little pale out there, can you check on her?” Only one person, the doctor, seemed still and focused. He stayed next to, or behind me watching the monitor. He never left me and he talked to me directly, rather than about me, in between talking to the others.
After a while, he grew quiet. I was afraid that he had run out of ideas about how to make my heart slow down. And then, I felt a change. The pain in my neck subsided and I felt my body relaxing. Since everyone around me was so anxious and busy, I wanted to make sure they noticed that perhaps my condition was improving. I told the only person I thought would listen. “Doctor, I think I feel better.” Never taking his eyes off the heart monitor, he patted my arm and he said so slowly, “Yes. Yes, you feel better.” He paused for only a few seconds more, turned to the nurse with a totally different demeanor, and said sharply, “Code Blue.”
And then, almost instantaneously, I heard the same words echoed louder on a P.A. It sounded as if the words were coming from the announcer at the football game who was shouting it to the stands. People rushed in around me. I couldn’t understand them. A tube was shoved down my throat. I felt my chest lift. I didn’t really know what to think other than, “this must be bad.” The circle of people began to fade as I realized that I was fading away. My thoughts frantically jumped to my parents and friends with an anguished pang. And then my heart stopped hurting—not my physical heart—my feeling heart. The thoughts of those I love receded as I became totally focused on the breathtaking brilliance before me.
That was the beginning of wisdom for me.
It was the beginning of understanding that my days on earth are numbered. It was the moment when I truly believed that God was real. That was the moment it dawned on me that there was something greater on the other side of life.
To my deep regret, the brightness faded and noise filled my ears. The light seemed to have sucked all the life out of me like a tremendously powerful vacuum and I felt flat and deflated—I have never felt so emotionally empty and disjointed. Physically I felt fine. But I was not happy to be back.
Shortly after my cardiac arrest I received my first pacemaker. My heart has continued to keep me humble ever since. Every surgery and every irregular heartbeat have been a reminder to me over the years that time in this life is tenuously uncertain. There is only one thing in life that is certain—death. And there are only three things that matter to me…
God. People. And to make every day count.
This verse became my verse. God knows who you are and what you do. How hard you are trying. He knows the doors—difficult doors—He has asked you to walk through, and He knows that you have little strength. But He also knows that you are faithful, and He wants you to know His will be faithful to carry you through the trial and/or at some point carry you home.
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelations 3:8