Last Monday night, I was having dinner with a new acquaintance in the Upper West Side, near Columbia University. I took the subway early to explore the area on a gorgeous spring day. At one point, I sat on a bench on a traffic island in the middle of Broadway where it crosses 103rd Street. I sat and read and just soaked in the City. I called my son to share the moment with him, but he wasn’t home.
Later that night, I felt sick - sharp chest pain, short breath, and eventually vomiting, which made me think I had some kind of bad reaction to my spicy dinner. A diagnostician I am not. At 8:00 Tuesday morning, my son returned my call. He had been up all night (ah, to be 22 again) and knew I would be awake. When I told him I was sick, he insisted that I get to the hospital. He persisted until I relented and drove to the emergency room (yes, the nurses yelled at me for that, too).
By the time I lumbered into the ER, my heart rate was 240. It seems I had been in arrhythmia for hours. They shocked me to return my heart to a normal rhythm (not an experience I recommend). The doctor told me that if I had waited much longer, I would have likely passed out and died.
Twenty-four hours later, they installed a defibrillator in my chest. My prognosis seems very good, although I will not ever again be able to use a cell phone in my left ear, or have a long list of other machines within six inches of the device. Now, I am recuperating at home contemplating all of this, and have come to the following conclusions.
- I owe my life to my son, to his stubborn insistence that trumped my stubborn resistance;
- I owe my life to the relationship I have with my children, whom I love deeply; and
- I owe my life to setting aside the time to take a brief moment to sit and watch life pass by.
I am more committed now than ever to my ministry, to getting the most out of every day I have, and to letting go of petty, unimportant trivia that bombards our lives. And, part of my ministry will become sitting on park benches in the middle of major thoroughfares, or other opportunities to just experience life in all its flavors.