“BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW” Revelation 21:5
I have been absent from my blog for many months.
On the first day of 2015 I offered a silent prayer: “Lord, I want to experience joy.”
The prayer was not born of sadness. Despite challenges I am not given to long periods of depression, and I am pretty good at achieving a healthy level of satisfaction. But joy? What was JOY? What would it be like to really know it? So of course, contemplating its attainment had led me to the source. “Lord, show me joy”, I innocently prayed. I meant that prayer with all of my heart. And because of that pure intention, the Lord heard and responded. I was sure, as my prayer began to be answered in unexpected ways during the grueling months that followed, that the Lord, the universe, had misunderstood.
My husband and I had been asked by a childhood friend to move next door to her. She was well off and knew that we had some financial challenges due to my heart health.Or lack thereof. I was excited to have a “sister” next door. Except she was only a sister in my imagination. Instead I found myself caught in an almost horror movie scenario, as I realized my other friends who knew her had been right. She was not well. What she wanted was not me. It was the life I had built and the exclusive love of my children. And once obtained at least in her mind, she had no further use for me. So in February of the year I prayed for joy I started sending out resumes at age 68. Miraculously by April we had moved to Southern Oregon and I was working,
Joy seemed a little further away as I mourned the loss of a friendship that had never been, mourned my separation from my children and grandchildren who were now five hours away instead of a few minutes away. Yet there was also the tremendous satisfaction of working in a field I have always loved, of helping patients in a workplace full of angels in a town graced by the presence of wonderful friends.
And life went on, now four, then five, then six months after my prayer….then….a heart attack. I thought it was GERD. I walked around for days, really walked around as I was the Social Worker in charge of three non contiguous departments in a large hospital. And when the pain just got out of hand, I made an appointment with my doctor to get something stronger than TUMS for my GERD. Minutes after arriving at my doctor’s office I was in the ambulance headed for the hospital where I worked where I learned that I had four blocked arteries. They were practically totally blocked. Stents were tried and failed. The words I had dreaded, OPEN HEART SURGERY, were uttered. And eight months after my prayer I figured joy just wasn’t going to happen in 2015. As if to emphasize the reality of that thought, I lost my job because I had not earned enough time for family leave, and I lost my insurance. And then….
Throngs of angels came to the rescue disguised as friends. Sharon Mehdi and Nancy Bardos who live near us did healing touch before the surgery. Through them and with them I reached out to my Chartres family who immediately surrounded me in prayer with such power and love it was palpable every day. My beloved friends Haydecita and Patricia prayed. My Facebook friends prayed. In September I received the news that the boy I loved with all my heart as a young adolescent had been able to leave Cuba and was in Miami. We reconnected Benny Avila and I, now both of us married, but still friends. And just as once he had combed the city of Havana to find scarce products to take to my mother so she could send them to my father at the Isle of Pines prison, he now called me every day to see how I was doing and to make me laugh as we reminisced about the past and contemplated the ironies of the present.
In November I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and finished my memoir.
In December I had my surgery. My precious Tocaya, Yolanda Cardenes Ganong made her third trip to be by my side on December 22. She missed Christmas with her family and an important anniversary. But she helped me and she helped Ken, with the patience of Job.
When I was wheeled to Cardiac Intensive Care after surgery, Sharon and Nancy were there doing healing touch with full permission of my surgeon. I was out of the hospital in record time. And all of the time I could palpably feel myself held in prayer by friends all over the world. Shortly after I came home, my friend Marguerite Quantaine sent me the original score of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She dared me to be that. Unsinkable.
I did not feel unsinkable. But I sure felt extremely grateful. Grateful to have survived a quintuple heart bypass. Grateful that I had friends that loved me so unconditionally. Grateful for the man I married almost thirty years ago who stood by my side every second of every day no matter how difficult. Grateful for every breath. I forgot all about joy. Gratitude took its place. I thanked God often, for everything. I thanked God so much all the time it must have made Him dizzy. I thanked Him for water, for a soft mattress, for each and every one of my friends, for my house, for the love in my life, for the rain, for the sun, for the little flowers that began to bloom early outside my window. I thanked God for the energy that increased every day. For my totally disappeared angina. I thanked God for my children regardless of distance. For the people they have become. For my grandchildren. For my husband. For my heart that can love so fully. Every breath was a thank you. And it was there. It was in the thank you that joy was hiding! It was there that God had hidden it until I was ready to experience it!!
Joy dwells in gratitude. It grows by leaps and bounds in gratitude. And a little more than a year after my prayer, a year of betrayal, a year of work, a year of pain, a year of the greatest love, a year of trial and triumph, I finally understood. Many things had to be purged before gratitude could open my heart to joy.
In March, fourteen months after my prayer and only three months after my surgery I went to Mount Shasta accompanied by part of my Chartres family. Only 11 weeks after my surgery I welcomed the solstice with my soul family on the holy mountain. I listened as my beloved friends Cantrell and Jerry played beautiful music on their guitars and looked at the faces of friends old and new and rejoiced.
And so…I have a wonderful job. Ken has a wonderful job. At 73 he is doing on call for the hospital and loving it. I found the perfect editor for my book now retitled Fragments Of My Cuban Heart, Anna Elkins. I am so excited to be working with this amazing young woman who already knows joy. Ken and I bought a house thanks to the VA loan he earned for the service to our country. Life is good. Every breath is precious. And joy is everywhere. All things are new.
May each of you be blessed.