All the information, booklets, visits from the different therapists and the remarks of different doctors in the days and hours prior to leaving the hospital following my husband’s open heart bypass surgery didn’t prepare me for the recovery road. Yes, I’d listened intently. Yes, I’d taken notes and appeared to comprehend all the information they were giving me — giving us.
I guess I was prepared for what they’d specifically instructed me to do when we returned home, but I wasn’t prepared for the other stuff — the other stuff that they didn’t tell me. And now, looking back, I see that there was “other stuff” they couldn’t tell me –– they couldn’t prepare me for what I’d experience any more than the obstetrician could prepare me for what I’d experience in labour and delivery and for the weeks following the birth of our first child. I marvel at the similarities.
Last July, we were sitting out on the deck of a local restaurant enjoying the airplanes, hotair balloons and the beautiful sunset. In ordering the bacon wrapped tenderloin, I obviously completely forgot that my. husband. had. just. had. open. heart. surgery. We’d walked there so that we could keep with the prescribed daily walking schedule — two to three walks per day, increasing the length of the walks each day. But, yes, I shot us both in the foot with that order.
Through the month of July when our first son was born 35 years ago, each day was filled with the activities of feeding, bathing, napping, dressing, strolls, and extended times of just gazing at him while he slept. I’d gently lay my head near my son’s face to hear his breathing or my hand on his back to feel the gentle rise and fall of each respiration. Each day seemed so long but the weeks seemed to fly by — such an uncanny parallel to the way this past July was spent.
Each day we’d wake up early, the sun streaming in our living room — my husband in his recliner, and I beside him on my temporary bed. The new electric recliner gave him so much freedom to get up or sit by himself, but the tone of the electronic lift was like an alarm clock — the operative word being: alarm. 😉 Though he never complained of my incessant, day or night, staring and asking, are you okay? I stared at him while he rested, stared at him while he ate, stared at him while he read. Each day seemed long — much like those early newborn days, a flurry of firsts, busy days just like the early days of the first baby, my days were filled with feeding, bathing, napping, dressing, strolls and staring at my… husband. Somehow the busyness of keeping each day’s chart filled in — assorted new meds, his temperature, blood pressure, walks, water, meals and doctor visits all served as distractions to what was really going on or what had really gone on.
I wasn’t prepared for the new tentative feel to life. I wasn’t prepared for the feeling that this was all very temporary — that at any time my husband would have another heart attack and we’d do all that all over again. I wasn’t prepared for what felt like the loss of the middle years — suddenly catapulted to the later years — the last years. I didn’t anticipate that there’s be potholes on the recovery road and surely didn’t anticipate their source. I wasn’t prepared for the comments and questions I’d receive and, therefore, didn’t have a ready response. Instead of hearing them as simple conversation, I heard them as attacks and didn’t have the wherewithal to give reasoned answers. I took my husband’s health personally and have felt ashamed that I contributed to it being what it is — that I could have/should have made better choices for the last thirty six years and, had I done so, he’d not be in the condition he is.
In saner, stronger, more rational moments I’ve been able to reason that, first, God is sovereign. That’s a sure plank on which to stand. He’s also Lord of my life, Lord of my husband’s life and has been our sustainer, provider, strength, and guide through all these years. I’ve been careful to be in the Word and in prayer daily and to recognize, ultimately, where the feeling of attack came/comes from. The devil knows my weaknesses and one of them is guilt or shame over things that happen around me — that when bad things happen, it must be my fault; when relationships are strained, it must be my fault; if/when my kids fail, reject me, reject the Lord, or whatever: it must be my fault. So also, when my husband’s health failed, surely it must be my fault and to excuse myself in any way would mean I’m not accepting the fact. It’s a vicious cycle — one I’m very familiar with — one that I must work diligently to accurately see for what it is.
It’s a decision I’m not always quick to react with though, and sometimes I’m in the middle of a pothole when I finally see I’ve fallen into the trap the devil’s set for me on the road. And in that place, I must resolve to yield to the Lord: I resolve to rest in His promises. I used to see as weakness what I now see as yieldedness. I used to see as a copout what I now see as trust. What I used to see as naïve I now see as faith. I often wish it hadn’t taken me so long to see these truths.
No one sets out to have heart disease — but I wish I’d grasped early on what it is to set out to NOT have heart disease. Obviously, I don’t even yet grasp this.