I'm sitting at the computer, which faces an east window in my house. It's 7:17 a.m. and the sun is just turning the sky pinkish. When I went out to get the newspaper about 6, two owls were calling back and forth, one in an alto range and the other in a deeper, maybe tenor range of who-hoohoo-hoohoo. I imagined that they were telling each other about my progress up and down the long driveway.
Back in the house, I unwrapped the papers, which were so packed with ads that they were three times their normal size, even though on the island we don't have much access to most of these stores. But it's interesting to leaf through them and marvel at the effort the ad people go to to get us out there in the holiday crush. They all go in the recycle bin, as I have no intention of spending any time whatsoever in the big stores this holiday season.
My email this morning contained another encouraging report from my sister in law, who tells a crowd of friends and family that my brother is making good progress in his recovery from 8 hours of heart surgery a week ago, to implant a Ventricle Assist Device which will enable him to live fairly normally until he can get a heart transplant. He's cheerful and optimistic, though he has had his ups and downs since the surgery. This is a huge thing I'm thankful for this year, that his health will again improve and that he will have a reasonable quality of life for a time. We don't know for sure if he'll ever get a heart transplant, but the odds are fairly good that he will. And in the meantime, he does what he needs to do to stay alive.
It makes me thankful that my own heart troubles eight years ago were so well-resolved by the surgery to fix a formerly-undiagnosed congenital heart defect. My brother and I have apparently inherited our father's heart weaknesses; my brother had a heart attack at age 30, related to a congenital heart defect, and his heart has steadily deteriorated since that time, with many interventions keeping him alive and functioning during the years since that happened (about 25 years now). My saga began with a heart murmur first heard at age 12 or so, never figured out until I was getting ready to begin my first pastorate. A year after the atrial septal defect was diagnosed, I underwent surgery myself and it was repaired, with no aftereffects that I can tell.
So I'm thankful this year for the skill of doctors, the love of family, and the reprieve that my brother has received. I'm also grateful for the role model he offers us all. Determined to live as well and as long as he possibly can, my brother refuses to give up. He explores every avenue, checks out every lead. He is better informed about cardiac surgery and cardiac care than most general practitioners. Faced with a horrible choice---to give up and let nature have its way---he chooses to pursue life. Our dad died at age 62 of his heart troubles; my brother is determined to outlive him. When I passed that age 62 milestone, I felt a huge sense of triumph, that ministry wasn't going to kill me early.
Lots of thoughts this early island morning. I hope your day is as full of gratitude as mine.