I don't think I look like someone who has had a heart attack. But I did. One year ago.
For Christmas 2017 my husband gave me an Apple Watch which I didn't want, but I've grown to appreciate. I don't exercise. Never got into it. I hate figuring out new technology. It was vibrating and buzzing at me and annoying me to no end. One of the things it does is measure your heart rate and I noticed just carrying the laundry basket would make my heart rate spike way up. This sort of freaked me out. I kept joking to my friends, "This thing is going to give me a heart attack."
January 18, 2018 we had a beautiful snow. This is very unusual as I live in the South and it rarely snows. Freezing rain, yes; but snow, no. And this was beautiful fluffy snow and the sun was out. So I decided to take my dog for a walk.
Oh it was a lovely day and I was thanking God for it. Hudson was loving it and I was too until I got to a steep hill and realized that I could hardly breathe. I looked at the hill and thought there is no way I can make it up there. No one was around. No one knew where I was. I had to keep stopping and resting. I got a little worried I wasn't going to make it home. It seemed like the longest dang walk in recorded history. I kept thinking, "Boy am I out of shape."
That was a Thursday. Two days before on Tuesday night I had made Fiesta Chicken and that Thursday night I made my delicious Jambalaya. Both nights I felt kind of weird after eating. Sort of a burning at the back of my throat. This was unusual for me because I just never have any issues. I can eat anything without problems. I was underweight, had low blood pressure, never got sick, didn't take any medicine or vitamins, and got a physical about every 4 years.
Saturday night we went out with friends, and I felt fine. I woke up at 1:00am with that burning in the back of my throat again only this was severe. I was pretty much up all night. I had to serve at church the next morning. Went and greeted. Picked up a prayer shawl for someone - the whole time thinking, I don't feel too good.
I finally went to the doctor on Tuesday morning. He thought I possibly had an ulcer in my esophagus. I asked if it might be my heart. He didn't think so, but said he would do an EKG and draw blood. He came back in with wide eyes and said I needed to get to the ER as my heart was in distress.
At the ER, they told me I had had a "cardio event" sometime within the past three days. Today is the one year anniversary I found out I had a heart attack. Not sure when I had it. On the walk? In the middle of the night when I got that burning?
My friend texted me "It must have been that Apple Watch." Ha! Chuckle.
Wednesday they operated on me. Thursday I was home with a full box of pills to take and told to sign up for twelve weeks of cardio rehab.
A year later I am still struggling with changes in diet and exercise. Some have stuck. Some haven't.
Having a heart attack made me think a lot about death this year and if I'm nearing the end of my life in this world. Decades ago I was afraid to die. Now I'm not. At some point I crossed that line of fear to no fear. I believe eternity is going to be so wonderful that sometimes I just can't wait! Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful it was a minor heart attack and I'm fixed. Hopefully I have many more years to enjoy with my loved ones. But if I don't, I know what lies ahead for me.
I started reading bits of the Bible in 2001. But in 2006 I was at a women's retreat at the Cove near Asheville, NC and God spoke to me. Clearly. Directly. Out of the blue He told me to read His word. It brought me up short. I thought I'm imagining things. I sort of blew it off at first, but it happened over and over that weekend. I told no one. I just didn't know what to make of it. We had free time and I walked by myself to the chapel. I kept hearing 'Carolyn, read My word!' I tried to reason what was going on. It freaked me out. I was sitting there listening to the speaker talk about the deserts in our life and I heard, 'Read My word.' At dinner I heard, 'Read My word.' I looked around the table. As we left the retreat they had paper gift bags to give us. They told us to pray before we chose one and then take it. The bags had statements written on them - things like 'Now is the time to trust.'/ 'Now is the time to serve.'/ 'Now is the time to...' You couldn't see the words on the bags because they faced the window. I prayed and took a bag from the middle and yes you guessed it, mine said, 'Now is the time to read God's word.' I had a complete melt-down right then and there.
I was sort of in shock that God talked directly to me like that; and for whatever reason He had, I knew I had better read the Bible. Not just bits and pieces, but the whole thing. I didn't dare ignore Him. He was very clear. As I read day after day, things started happening to me - to my outlook, to my disposition, to my trust in and closeness with God. It was as if my beliefs settled down into every nook and cranny of my being.
My son and I had a conversation about death in 2007 when he asked about my mom dying at the age of 51 from a heart attack and if I thought she was in heaven. During the conversation, and for the first time in my life I realized that I knew, with a surety I didn't know I had until that very moment, that I would be with Jesus. I knew my fate was sealed and I told my son that. For years I had been searching for answers to what I believed and this was the moment in time that I realized I was 100% "all in" this Christianity thing. I truly did believe it and I knew exactly why I believed it! For me, being sure of my faith came from reading and studying the Bible. I didn't rely on what others were telling me the Bible said or telling me what I should believe. I read God's promises and His redemptive plan for myself and I believed Him.
This was why God wanted me to read His word! For me to believe! Truly. Really. Deeply. Completely.
It gave me freedom.
Although I look forward to heaven, I realize I am physically right here, right now for a purpose. My focus has narrowed. This day, this hour, this moment - is what matters! I don't think too much about the past anymore. I try to hold onto the good memories; but the monsters, the dirty little secrets, the pain and disappointment, I realize they just aren't important. Not now. They've been thrown as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea. I realize they were part of my journey to get me to today, but I have released them. I don't think too much about the future either. Maybe because I'm older, maybe because I'm content; but I just don't dream big anymore or plan out my life like I once did.
Instead I look at time right now. What I do right now impacts the eternal picture in some way. Eternity doesn't have time. It has no beginning or end. Our time here is brief. A vapor. But it has meaning because it is what shapes eternity! I want God to use me for something that matters. Here I am Lord.
I now spend my time mostly in the present. Am I doing what I can to make the time I have left be full of meaning? What has eternal significance? Show me Lord. Keep my soul on fire and my body and heart willing. I want to be a living stone. I want people to look at me and go, "Wow your God is something!"
Time. I've been given some more of it. I am so very grateful.
The heart attack just confirmed what I already knew.
I don't fear death because I believe what He said in His word.
Time is precious.
I'm so happy to be here. Right here. Right now. With you.