Fragile Hearts, Fighting Spirits
My friend suffered a heart attack. He was airlifted to a trauma center for emergency medical treatment night before last. Based on the wry tone of his emails, tapped in brief on his phone, he’s hurting, but is stabilized thanks to skilled medical staff and the surgical placement of a stent.
Unexpected . . . the last thing I thought I’d see when his name appeared in my inbox was the announcement he delivered without preamble. My own heart dropped to my toes, and all I could think was, “No. No, no, no.”
That sort of bad news takes one’s breath away, doesn’t it? Especially when the person in question is too far away to receive a personal visit. We couch those hospital visits in a cheer-you-up theme, but part of the reason is to assure ourselves that our pal is really okay, that whatever horrible thing happened can and will be repaired. But no, in this case there will be no popping in with a bag of edible contraband and my ever-willing partner in crime, the hubster, in tow. Instead, I will keep checking my phone for updates, shoot off the occasional “are you resting/feeling better/annoying the nurses” messages, and wonder why God created our bodies to be such fragile things. We’re supposed to have been created in His image, and He doesn’t strike me as the fragile type, so what gives?
Why do our bodies betray us so grievously? We trust our bodies, don’t we, as a matter of course? When we’re children, the notion that our internal organs or limbs might fail us is ludicrous. We deliver our flesh and bones into all manner of situations with the potential to harm us, and never think twice. If you’re reading this, you survived childhood in spite of your dangerous choices. But at what point did you stop feeling invincible? How old were you when you first understood that our bodies—as miraculous as they are—can and do fail with alarming frequency?
I broke my ankle in seventh grade. This did not teach me about the fragile nature of my bones. It taught me that gymnastics is not my forte. I blamed gymnastics, not the ankle bone, for my cast and crutches (which I totally embraced, btw, and developed a fine song and dance routine to “All for the Best” from Godspell, complete with one-legged pirouetting and crutches as percussion instruments). Point is, even with infallible proof that my limbs were breakable, I didn’t quite get the message. Nope. Not even a little.
Somewhere along the line, of course, reality set in—probably about the time I became a mother and began worrying about the little people in my care. And then they were the ones not understanding the dangers to their fragile selves. I handled all of that for them (“No, you may not jump from the third story window!” “Don’t run with that sharp stick!” “Helmet, and knee and elbow pads with that skateboard, mister!”). Suddenly, the recognition of fragility was front and center, 24/7. Not my fragility, but theirs.
Now that my kids are grown and I’m sort of a grownup myself, I hold no illusions about the fragility of the human body. Sometimes it’s a stretch, but I try instead to marvel at the body’s ability to heal, to keep working, to give us its all through countless near-misses and frightening circumstances. Maybe we’re not so fragile, after all. The strength is in the heart and soul of the person inhabiting those oh-so-breakable parts. And when I look at it that way, I’m not worried about my friend at all. He’s a writer and a fighter. He’ll come through this with his humor intact and his pen at the ready.
Fragile our beating hearts might be, but our spirits have one hell of a backbone. Hmm . . . maybe we were created in His image, after all.
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