“Life’s waters flow from darkness. Search the darkness, don’t run from it.” – Rumi
We all have days where life is not kind to us in any way, shape or form. These can be some of our darker days of life. Probably, the darkest five times of my life were when two sons, my father and my mother passed away, all at different times …. as well as the early days of my heart transplant journey. After each event, I took a LOT of time and did a lot of soul-searching. The deaths of two children were the worst. The song by R.E.M., “Losing My Religion” probably would sum up my thoughts and attitudes around those days. The days after each of my parents passed away were rough as well, but the kids were more difficult, probably because I was younger (and lacked any wisdom). I admit I lost my faith back then, and it took a while to recover it …. but I did. Prayer helped.
“In complete darkness we are all the same, it is only our knowledge and wisdom that separates us, don’t let your eyes deceive you.”
My heart transplant was very different. It was so sudden, with no warning that it changed decades of life in a matter of a few weeks. I was blind to the entire transplant process, and I had zero knowledge and absolutely no wisdom what-so-ever. For the better part of a year, I waited for “the other shoe to drop” and I had virtually no one to talk to about what I was experiencing. I waited something to go wrong, to fail, to go into “rejection” ….. my emotional swings were the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Some of these extreme swings were likely due to the steroids I was taking to help ward off any rejection of my precious new heart. The tears flowed in private daily. It took almost nothing for me to go into a rage. (“Roid-rage”)
During that time I was having discussions with friends and one such friend unknowingly gave me some of the knowledge and wisdom from the above quote. Most of my issues centered around the possibility of dying, with so much unfinished business in my life and how much my life changed in that split second when my heart attack initiated. That a “normal” life seemed like a faded memory.
In my mind, what my friend said to me was much more like this song lyric ……“In my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” – The Beatles, Let It Be
The “words of wisdom” that I was told in that hour of darkness, so innocently, were along these lines ….. I’m paraphrasing here ……… “There are many chapters to each persons life. The end of one chapter is not the end of your life. The opening of a new chapter is simply a continuation of your good life. Let it be a peaceful chapter. Try to life it fully.”
That was that day that I started to see the light. And soon after that one of my doctors suggested that I try to do some volunteer work. The same day of that discussion, I read this quote ….. to me, it was very profound …… “And I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too, so I stayed in the darkness with you.”
That was me, it was how I felt. It was then that I started my journey into volunteering with other heart transplant patients. A lot of us start in the “darkness”. I didn’t want people to stay there as long as I did. This journey has allowed me to meet some of the greatest, most incredible people in the world. As I try to give them a thread of hope, something incredible happened almost immediately …. these folks, as sick as they were at the worst times of their lives, have helped me grow and improve even more. They humble and inspire we in ways they will never understand. I swear I now have the BEST job in the world!
I think it also helped to know that I was as sick as these people, so close to death countless times, that really helped me see the light.
It was during this time when I started to volunteer that I truly went “from darkness into the light” ….. I changed my thinking, my attitude, my behavior, and became even more thankful for this incredible gift that was beating in my chest. Joy and happiness came back into my life.
Last week I was having breakfast with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time and he told me a story, that years ago, would have sent me into a frenzy …. I would have been livid and extremely pi$$ed off ….. but, I simply shook my head and said “that’s not good” …… it was not the reaction or response he expected. He shook his head and said, “Wow, man have you changed?!?!”.
Well, in all honesty, I have changed …. a lot ….. I’ve learned so much in the past 5 years about not only myself, but about life and death, about what is important and what isn’t really all that important. I’ve learned about family and friends, to take the time to stop and smell the roses, to watch the clouds float by and listen to the birds sing …… and to FULLY appreciate ALL of the gifts that God bestows upon us each day.
Oh yes, I can still have a bad day, there are people and/or situations that can truly “push my buttons” …. I do visit the “dark side” on occasion. But those trips aren’t as bad, not as long and the ability to rebound seems easier.
I’ve found it’s easier to live life like this as much as I can ….. “You are the light, holding back the darkness!”
If you are in the darkness, I hope you can find your way out …… talk to your friends, your family, or even a professional …….. someone, is always willing to listen …… I am, just ask me.