The first time I met Dr. Darrell was in December of 2013; after my heart attack, and before my open-heart surgery. He walked into my room in the Cardiac Care Unit, introduced himself and sat down with me and my wife, Susie, and reviewed the results of my cardiac cath. He showed us a diagram of the eight or nine heart blockages, and candidly informed me, “Every vessel in your heart is diseased; but I’ll do everything I can for you.” He mapped out possible routes for my four-way by-pass and declared, “But that’s a decision I’ll have to make; and I’ll make that decision when I get in there.” Dr. Darrell’s candor and temper inspired me with a sense of trust. I felt like my heart was in good hands.
The next time I saw Dr. Darrell I was being wheeled down the hallway to surgery. He was standing on the right side of the hallway in his scrubs. As they wheeled me past him he said, “It’ll be alright.” And then I heard him yell to the guys who were wheeling me, “Hold up a minute!” He walked up to the side of the gurney and said, “I want you to know that this isn’t something that I routinely do, but I feel like we need to pray.” Can you think of more comforting words to hear before open-heart surgery? I thank God that Dr. Darrell was willing to step out of his comfort zone.
After a few days, when my head had cleared from the fog of surgery, Dr. Darrell sat down beside me and asked, “So how is all this hitting you?” I replied, “I’m feeling alright”. Then he tapped his fingers against the side of his head and said, “I mean up here.” I told him, “I’ve been praying that God will somehow use this to make me a better husband, a better father, a better Social Worker, a better person.” He responded, “I’m really glad to hear that you’re thinking that way.” And then he asked, “Can I share with you how my open-heart surgery impacted me? I was thirty-nine years old, a cardiac surgeon at the top of my game. Suddenly, I was the patient and facing a life-and-death operation. I was never a very emotional person but after my surgery I got really emotional. I don’t mean depressed, just emotional. Since childhood I’d attended church, but it was a legalistic type of church and I never really knew God. So after my surgery I set out to really know God; and now I know the grace of God!”
Dr. Darrel then proffered some profound advice that I’m now passing on to you; “We don’t know exactly why, but people tend to get emotional after open-heart surgery; and they can become depressed and afraid of dying. But we’re all going to die sooner or later. Loren, you being a hospice Social Worker know that better than most people. But don’t let the fear of dying keep you from living.”
But it’s not just the fear of dying that keeps us from living, is it? It’s also the fear of failure; of being wrong; of making a mistake, of not being perfect or even the best; the fear of not measuring up, of not being smart enough, strong enough or fast enough; the fear of the unknown, of losing control. But the greatest fear of all may be the fear of rejection; of what others may think or say about us.
I think I’ll close by throwing a hodgepodge of relevant quotes and song lyrics at you with the hope that one or two might stick. So here goes!
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error…who knows great enthusiasms…who spends himself in a worthy cause…who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (“The man in the arena”, Theodore Roosevelt)
“Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in…To step out of my comfort zone into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is…But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me; reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The waves they keep on telling me, time and time again. ‘Boy, you’ll never win!’…But the voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’” (Casting Crowns, “The Voice of Truth”)
“So why am I still standing here? Why am I still holding back from You? I hear You call me out into deeper waters, but I settle on the shallow end…But I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to look back someday, on a life that never stepped across the line…So why am I still standing here? (Casting Crowns, “What if I gave all”)
“Every man dies, but not every man really lives” (“Braveheart”; William Wallace)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525