Sunday, 3 March 2013

With Every Beat Of My Heart

This week I made two visits to the doctor's. Although the practice I go to has quite a large team, this week it was the same doctor. He must think I'm either a hypochondriac or a stalker.

Tuesday's was a simple issue of my hearing. I had had a chest infection earlier this month, and one of the after-effects is that their is fluid in my Eustachian tubes. Both ears, so I can't hear very well. Everything sounds muffled and my alarm clock can beep as loud as it likes and won't wake me. Although I am a heavy sleeper. I have slept through earthquakes.

Note the use of the plural.

Indeed I worry about what would happen if Jesus returned when I was asleep. Would there be a team of angels round my bed trying to wake me up and then saying "Nah, can't wake him. Will have to leave him"? Or would they fetch the angel who sounds the trumpet and get him to wake me?

Tuesday evening I was at work and suddenly my heart felt odd. It was beating irregularly - the only way I can describe it is that it felt like my heart was jumping around in my chest. I was standing and had to sit on a desk for a few minutes before it calmed down.

So, on Friday morning I saw the doctor again, who suggested that it was an atrial fibrillation. On Tuesday I will have an echocardiogram which should give more details. This isn't the NHS moving especially quickly - I was referred back in January.

It won't be my first one. I volunteered for one at a science exhibition back in July, as I thought it would be interesting for the punters to see what an enlarged left ventricle (which I've known about for years) looks like.

The doctor also suggests that on Tuesday I ask for 24-hour Holter monitoring.

The past year or so has not been good for my health, to be honest. And it has made me more aware of my own mortality.

A few days back I had a lift, and the engine stalled. If something was behind us, then it could have gone into the back of us. The driver asked me afterwards, "Did you feel unsafe?"

And my reply suprised me - Life is unsafe.

Last Sunday evening at church, we sang Stuart Townend's In Christ Alone, and one part stuck out:

From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny

We all live with our feet teetering on the edge of eternity, never knowing when we'll fall off. Some people choose to ignore that fact, and act as if life is a great big fun merry-go-round that will never come to an end.

Others are aware that life is unsafe. In a post from last April, I noted that there had been a couple of times when I realised that I had come close to being killed, but that St George's Day was the first time I thought I would die.

You can either - as I think The Shawshank Redemption puts it - get busy living or get busy dying.

It makes life more precious. When I was taken ill at work a few weeks back, and left Basingstoke Hospital, I recall sitting on the train to Andover, seeing the Sun and reflecting that when I was taken to hospital there was a point when I wondered if I would ever see the Sun again.

Yesterday I ended up having to take the train to Gillingham, and as I waited for the train to Salisbury, I was standing on the platform, and saw an impressive display of crepuscular rays. Normally I would just notice them, but this time I stood on the platform and drank them in, choosing to be amazed by them. And wondering if I would be lucky enough to see a parhelion or two on thw way back (I wasn't).

When you realise that life is fragile and precious, you become more aware of how impressive God's creation is. I read recently that mature Christians pray more not because they are more devout, but because they are more aware of their own weakness and fragility and hence more aware of how dependent they are on Him.

One lesson I have had to learn is dependency. Now, part of my idea of masculinity is that one stands on one's own two feet. You go in to work when you have a headache and your knees are aching because you have a job to do, and bills to pay. Being single and living on my own, I have found I have to get on with life - no-one is going to appear by magic and do the cooking for me.

The week I was at my worst my parents persuaded me to go to their home. And I did, learning again to have meals cooked for me, and ended up spending most of the time asleep.

Most Sunday evenings after church, a group of us go to Tragos, and a couple of Sundays ago, I went along and was offered a lift home. As I often do, I declined. I was walking home, feeling short of breath (from the chest infection) and unsteady on my feet (due to my ear problems), and then it struck me - why was I being so independent and foolish by turning down a lift? The offerer lived near me, he wouldn't be going out of his way, and for him it was something normal to do. So I turned around and went back and later got the lift home.

So, over February I was learning more about having to rely on others sometimes.

One day, there will be a moment when my heart beats for the final time, when my lungs take their final breath. And there is a comfort in knowing that the time, location and method of that has been decided by God, and that my future lies in His hands.

1 comment:

  1. Graham, I'm sorry to hear, from this post and your Twitter account, that you've been unwell: I remember you as a sprightly undergraduate. Without sharing your Christian beliefs, I agree with your general attitude to life; as Thomas More said, "live as if you would die today; study as if you would live forever." Jonathan