Something about the way the snow is blowing horizontally against the grove of trees in my back yard is really quite beautiful. It makes little lines of white against the dark, bare trunks scaling its way up and up and separating into a thousand lines until it reaches the cool gray, shallow sky, so close and so flat and yet so heavy.
Heavy. That is the way I would describe it.
The days have been heavy. Dan's chest feeling heavy, me driving him through an icy round-about, wind whipping his hair as he tumbled out clumsily and made his way through the steel emergency room doors. I parked up the hill and made my way down the sloped drive, ignoring the fact that he seemed eager to come here. What was that about? If he is anything, he is never one to make something into what it is not. Could it really be more than just a bad case of heartburn?
I reach inside my pockets to protect my raw hands from the biting wind.
Inside there are a series of questions, facts re-told, wheel chair whizzing and stickers to the chest, lines of tangled gray and red cords draw from him what they need to know.
Minutes and hours pass by, watching nurses pull back the curtain and pluck some new plastic tool from the shelf, peeling them like cheese sticks from their wrappers.
I try to stay on the level where my emotions exist most of the time. I tell myself that this is another incident where they will send us home in an hour. That hour turns to 2 and then to 4. When the 4 hours are up and the blood is drawn again, we move to 8 hours and then after the doctor drops the words "heart-attack" and "levels are rising" like a hammer on a glass plate a few more times, I muster the strength to keep my face flat and unmoving.
I move to that place in my heart that I do not visit so often. Like an attic at the house you grew up in, all dark and mysterious but familiar, comforting. In a dark corner I find an old trunk, inside I turn over relics I haven't seen in some time, studying them with my fingertips, recalling their shape I know so well.
There I find the old reels, like a home movie speckled with static, playing against a wall of wood rafters. I replay watching him smile against a backdrop of changing scenery, sitting across a restaurant table or standing next to each other in the kitchen washing dishes, walking along the lake like we do, stooping to pick up beach glass and other treasures, his hand in mine. I see him smiling as the kids come up behind him and cling to his legs.
Swimming in this sea of recollection and emotion, I feel vulnerable.
It is in this place when I feel so helpless, floating in a salted sea with nothing to anchor myself, that I see God swimming toward me. He grabs hold of me and keeps my head above water when I start to feel weak. He is there, even when the waves come and I can't see him for a few moments, coming up spitting, my nose and lungs burning. I feel him lifting me up again.
I notice something on the footage, grabbing my remote to rewind and replay something, sitting on an old stool, a musty quilt around my shoulders. I replay once, then again. It is a sort of pattern or a rhythm. When sadness overtakes us, when he looks tired or I look angry, there is something that always seem to happen. It happens once. It happens again. At night in the bed, we are closing our eyes, my head on his chest and our mouths are moving like we are still talking. Only, there is intensity in our posture, our voices and our expressions. We are praying.
I am standing over him, my hand on the nape of his damp, sweaty neck, the other hand on his chest between the bumps of the stickers and cords. I am praying.
All through that long, interrupted night I prayed.
In the morning, he ordered breakfast; oatmeal with brown sugar and orange juice.
The doctor finally came in and reviewed all the tests and studied the images of the ultrasound of his heart and determined that we were out of the woods. There was no heart-attack. The walls around his heart were inflamed from a virus he had a couple of weeks ago.
We went home. Aspirin and lots of rest for Daniel.
I know that this will not be the last trial. We have had several in just the last few weeks. But to those who may listen, it is the ongoing conversation we have with God that keeps lifting us up.