Editor’s Note: If you did not get a chance to read Allison’s dad’s account of his near-death experience you missed out. Check out the article from Steve Spott’s perspective called Dying can be easy, it’s living that’s the hard part. Click here.
It was a fight. A huge fight. My husband and I had fought before, but this was different.
The details were running through my mind all day. His sack lunch sitting on the counter. My sarcastic comment. His off-handed remark. My frustrated toss of a tupperware container into the fridge. Red, splattered everywhere.
A sticky, stubborn and unfriendly reminder of our display of sin and immaturity just a few hours earlier.
I kept running through the advice I’d heard (and proclaimed) my whole life.
- You have to care more about each other than you do about being right
- Assume the best about him
- Work to understand before being understood
- Conflict can be a good thing. Work toward unity of mind.
But I couldn’t stop fuming. I was mad. Really mad. So mad that shocks of anger were running up and down my arms and legs, gripping me with their seductive poison. Protect yourself they were telling me. Don’t let him get away with it, they were saying.
It had me. Anger is a jealous emotion.
The day seemed to drag on forever. We met for lunch, but didn’t eat. We both cried — hurt and fear and hot salty water just spilled all over ourselves, all over each other, leaving us to live in the mess of it.
A friend drove by and looked out his window at us. “You guys okay?” he yelled.
I put my thumb and forefinger together until they formed a little circle, my three remaining fingers turned up like feathers on a back-side of a bird, an arrogant, self-righteous peacock, showing off.
“Yeah, we’re great!” I yelled back.
And then I drove home.
Bitterness settled over me like thick fog, so quickly that I hardly knew what was happening and so completely that I couldn’t make out the shapes of anything ahead.
There were no lines between truth and reality.
I didn’t even know why I was angry. I couldn’t even think clearly.
The only thing I could do was feel angry. My anger controlled me.
Anger isn’t always wrong, but when anger controls you, you know that it isn’t justified. When anger controls you it isn’t producing anything good.
I looked at my phone. A missed call, from my mom. Moms can be so intuitive I thought. I couldn’t bring myself to call her back. A few minutes passed. Another call and now a voicemail from my mom. Moms can be so pushy sometimes, I corrected. Then a voicemail from my sister.
And suddenly it was like everything stopped.
Something was wrong. I knew it. Deep, in the pit of my gut.
I hadn’t even said hello when she said it. “Dad’s had a heart attack,” my sister explained. “I don’t know any details. I’m driving to the hospital right now. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”
And just like that the heavy brick of reality crashed hard against my chest. I was shocked back to life.
Tragedy does that. It has this funny way of simplifying things, cutting through the fog. Crisis has this way of clarifying things, so that you don’t have to think, you just act, based on what’s in front of you.
I found the closest pair of shoes I could and got in the car.
I drove to pick up my husband.
On the way, I prayed. Don’t let him die, don’t let him die, don’t let him die, God, I begged. I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’M NOT READY! I yelled to Him, worried that he might not hear me or believe me the first two times. Please God, please I begged.
I may never see him again, I told myself.
And without any effort on my part at all, my anger melted, a pool of water, clear and pure, so unlike the sticky mess I had been swimming that morning, such a contrast to the sick mucous baked thick with high afternoon sun and my own self-righteousness.
I was I washed clean. Like redemption.
I waited for word about my dad and pressed my chest to my husband. I begged him not to move. He didn’t ask me to apologize for the way I acted. We didn’t talk about my resentfulness, my selfishness, my bad attitude. He just held me.
And within an hour, the call came. My dad had survived. A miracle.
Only 2% of people survive the kind of cardiac arrest my dad experienced. But that’s not the only miracle I experienced that day. The other was that I was handed the heaviest sense of thankfulness. I didn’t ask for it, didn’t pay for it, didn’t even deserve it.
I just received it, like a gift.
Thankfulness is the cure for selfishness. That’s what I’m learning.
The root of selfishness is bitterness and entitlement (this isn’t fair, I deserve better, I shouldn’t have to put up with this) and the cure for bitterness is thankfulness (this isn’t fair, I don’t deserve this, I should be worse off than I am).
My life is a gift. Every aspect. The things I never think about — like that I can pick up the phone and call my dad — and the things I notice every day. My husband, the ministry I get to be a part of, friends who care about me, healthy body, food to eat.
Even the feeling of thankfulness — getting to live in that reality — is a gift in itself.
I’m so thankful I didn’t have to say goodbye to my dad last week. One day I’ll have to, and that it will be hard, but I’m glad it wasn’t right now. I wasn’t ready. I told God that, and He listened. He heard me. He cares. He answered my prayer.
In fact, he gave me more than I asked for.
He saved my dad from his heart, and saved me from myself.
In a way my dad and I both had an attack on our hearts that day, and yet we both survived. In fact, we might both be better for it.