A Grace-filled Time for Thanks
I still remember vividly how much a surprise it was to me back in July of 1999 – the sudden onset of angina. Walking is still my favorite form of exercise and I have always done it regularly. So when a simple walk back from the library (about 1.5 mi.) was rendered difficult and uncomfortable by chest pains and a dull, persistent ache in the arms, I thought it was just indigestion. It was not. The same symptoms continued about once a day for about a week, though not every day, and subsided quickly once I sat down for a rest. I went to a cardiologist on July 7th, my wife’s birthday! The Doctor told me very simply, “You need to get to a hospital… yesterday.” So I went!
The angioplasty procedure of July 8th installed two stents, stainless steel mesh supports for the Left Anterior Descending artery (the famous “Widow-Maker”). The stents restored the shape of the vessel and the normal flow of blood. It is nothing short of astonishing to me that so brief a procedure could so quickly reverse a potentially dangerous (deadly) situation. Through the trained hand of a doctor, God continues still to touch the sick and heal them…. as the scriptures make so plain. I was then… and still am very thankful. It was such a coincidence that, when I was 15 years old back in 1959, my 14 year old brother drowned accidentally on July 8th – the same day that, some fifty years later – my death would be put off a while by the grace of one of God’s servant’s medical expertise – a doctor – and it could have been just as miraculously and wondrously a police officer or an EMT or a firefighter or a 911 operator – whom God might have sent to give me an assist. That stent has worked nicely now for more than a dozen years. I am so very thankful.
And then, the profusion of cheery cards arrived at home where I rested about a week. And there was a huge basket of delicious fruit that the whole family helped empty. The greeting card wished me a quick recovery and best wishes from the people at the church I served. I was touched. How marvelous to have greetings from so many friends and restored health…. so suddenly!
What has surprised me most is how little fear there was to this whirlwind episode that so quickly took me from normal life to a hospital cardiac unit…. within hours. As if by grace (and not due to any great faith that I was ever aware of) I felt nothing but confidence in God’s abundant blessings. I was very surprised that no inkling of dread or terror ever came to mind. I felt literally above all that and have begun to wonder if that’s what it’s going to be like some day when I get to the end of my life! Even the comfort of confidence seems to be given us as a grace, not something we have to work at whatever. How marvelous! How beyond words!
Such is my season of great thanksgiving as I come out of a lovely summer – and have a couple of months to wait before the “official” Thanksgiving Day comes to us in November of 2012. Even now – in September – I thank God for life and family, friends (people like the members of Long Island Shields), food and drink, hope and memories, everything. Look around a bit….. I’ll bet you’re thankful right along with me…. For the same reasons!
Chaplain James Anderson