Yikes, I’m Mortal!

There is nothing that can convince us of our mortality more than serious illness. We may feel like we are in the pink of health and nothing can touch us, but then it does. There’s nothing like a heart attack, cancer, or some other life threatening illness, to get our attention – we are mortal after all.

Worse of all is the knowledge that not only are we mortal but there are some things that are totally beyond our being able to ‘fix’ ourselves. Laying there on the gurney in the hospital as they work their emergency magic on us fills us with a well-defined sense of just how helpless we really are. We become overwhelmed with the understanding that if we continue to live in this world, someone else will have to save us because the solution is way beyond our pay grade.

In the scriptural sense, we face our own Poverty of Spirit that we have read about in the Sermon on the Mount. We look at just how poor we truly are and how tentative life really is. For those reasons we are never the same afterward. We are never quite our old selves again. Life looks different from then on.

All the posturing, all the verbiage to the contrary, is all in vain. Telling ourselves and others that we will be back good as new in a short time after a little rehab, learning to eat the right foods, getting more rest, will not make it happen. After my own heart attack I remember people telling me that I’d be better than I use to be once I get back to the gym, eat right, and learn to deal with stress.

If only that were true. Telling ourselves and others this kind of goods news in the face of a life threatening event is a chase after the wind and our own vanity, and is to be avoided at all cost. Saying it is so, does not make it so, and sets us up for worse calamities unless core changes are made.

Don’t misunderstand my message here. There is good news to be had, but it is not getting well and returning to the same old lifestyle with the same old attitude and the same old indulgence of our vanity.

A retired psychologist sat me down about a month after my heart attack and told me that God was trying to give me a gift. Mary said, most likely He wanted me to change some directions in which I had been headed. She said, as we get older she thought God wants all of us to become more contemplative, more settled, more in touch with Him and His greatness and less of our own.

As I look back over the last five years, I agree wholeheartedly with what my friend told me. Life looks differently, my own spirituality is less strident, my accepting of others without insisting they change, has grown. I have not become “Mr Wonderful” but I have changed and feel much closer to God and His creative self than I ever could have, because of the gift of that heart attack and the words of wisdom of my friend.