It started out like any other Wednesday, really.
I got up, said goodbye to my wife, went to work out, came home, ate cheerios, read my twitter feed, took a shower, and headed to my doctor’s office for an appointment I had made the previous Friday.
I don’t go to the doctor, usually. Like most men I know, I avoid doctor’s offices like the plague. But this was different. A few days before I had woken up to an alarming symptom. Not a “wow-my-head-hurts-worse than-usual-prior-to-coffee” kind of alarming symptom, but the kind of symptom that makes you wonder if there might be something really, really wrong with you.
I noticed blood in my urine.
And as much as I wanted to ignore it, to pretend like everything was okay, by 3 pm I was sitting at my desk thinking of all the terrible things that could be wrong with me. So instead of letting hypochondria overwhelm my entire weekend, I called my doctor to make an appointment.
The soonest they could take me was the following Wednesday.
I was irritated at the inconvenient timing (you can never get into the doctor when you need to I told myself) but I took the appointment anyway, which is how I ended up driving to the doctor on this random Wednesday.
I arrived at the office around 9:30am, checked in, and was called back right away.
The whole thing was really routine.
The nurse weighed me, took my blood pressure and pulse, and sent me to the bathroom for a urine specimen. She ran through the list of possibilities with me.
Infection was the most likely. But there was always the chance of something worse.
I don’t want Cancer, I thought to myself. Anything but Cancer. Then, I actually thought to myself: If I’m going to die, I’d rather die of a heart defect.
I gave my urine sample and returned to the exam room. But as I returned to the room I did something very strange. I left the door open. I thought to myself, very clearly, “Hmm, I’m leaving the door open, I wonder why?”
Back in the room — door open — I sat on the exam table.
After that I remember nothing.
That’s when my heart stopped beating.
The doctor came out of another exam room and one of his nurses told him she was worried about me. It sounded like I was snoring, she thought, and she wondered if I had fallen asleep. So the doctor came to check on me.
What he found was me, laid back on the table, my heart “quivering”.
The staff called 911 while my doctor maneuvered me to the floor ( which is no small task since I am 6’9”), gave me CPR, and shocked my heart back into rhythm with defibrillator paddles. He knew exactly what he was doing, and praise God he did.
I had a 90 second window for someone to save my life. The doctor found me in 60.
In the next hour doctors would shock my heart four times — once in the office, once in the ambulance, once in the ER, and then again in the “Cath” lab where they performed angioplasty and placed a stent in one of my heart vessels.
The paramedics worked hard to keep me alive.
Not me. I didn’t have to work hard at all.
My doctor worked hard to track down my wife. My wife worked hard to find my son and two daughters. Everyone worked hard to get to the hospital and to manage their state of fear and distress.
Not me. I wasn’t scared or distressed.
In fact, if I had died, I never would have known it was coming.
From my perspective, that morning can only be described as an absolute and incredible place of rest and peace. My life had never been more in crisis but I was filled with this overwhelming assurance that people were helping me and that I could just submit to them. I didn’t have to do anything.
I can’t help but think about how easy it all was — nearly dying.
People want to know what I learned from my near-death experience and I have a few things to tell them. Mainly it’s this:
Living is difficult.
I am grateful for the opportunity to live, again. To see my family and friends, to receive their care and support, to offer mine, to contemplate the future from an entirely different perspective than I had a week ago.
But living comes with responsibility.
The apostle Paul, who faced the prospect of immediate death more than once, wrote to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” and for the first time in my life, I really understand what he was saying.
Living isn’t all suffering by any means, but a life lived fully unto Christ ultimately leads to the kind of suffering that Christ experienced. It only makes sense. We follow a man who was beaten and disowned.
We’ll face trials in this life.
- Living for Christ means giving up the “right” to a life that looks any different than his.
- It means denying the rights of self altogether, putting others and their needs before myself.
- It is a faith exercise, requiring discipline and sacrifice, and often goes against the natural flow of society.
- It is a life lived wisely, peaceably when possible, in community, and with purpose.
- All these things contribute to a full and meaningful life.
I get a second chance to consider these things. I don’t know why.
When my heart stopped I wasn’t really thinking. I was only really feeling. If I had to put those feelings into words I would say it would sound something like,
“Submit — it’s okay to submit, just submit.”
So maybe that’s it. Maybe submission is the key to a life well-lived.
Giving up our dreams, hopes, goals, and longings, just submitting, and letting God do what He wants with me.
Either way, He has my attention.