Heart Condition


Normally I write a blog post, clean it up and then post it…not today. I’m going to write it raw and uncensored…hopefully it will make sense.

A year ago today my world came to a crashing halt. My wife Christine, the love of my life, had a heart attack that night and though it was a minor one…it shook our faith.

It was late when it happened and most of the house was asleep except for Sarah, my oldest daughter. When my wife was stable and resting, I returned home…it was now around 3:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and wondering how I would tell my kids that their mom had a heart attack and now was in ICU awaiting further tests. That was very difficult, my kids range from age 8 to 21 and their response was as varied as their age.

The next few days were a blur of phone calls. hospital visits, talking to concerned friends and family, and trying to manage a resemblance of normality for my kids at home. We have a great support system and the body of Christ surrounded us with love and care. All during this time I remained strong and focused on leading my family through this difficult and painful time. I talked to my kids, trying to give them space to express their fears or worries…I did the same for other relatives. I kept a brave face on, speaking Scripture and expressing worship…for I was truly grateful.

There was one problem with that brave face….I was also truly hurting.

I was afraid that my wife was going to die, or that she would endure a painful recovery and never be the same person again. I’ve seen other people who have suffered heart attacks and they became shells of their former self. I didn’t want that for her. I was afraid that my kids would be hurt and not ever trust God if their mom died. I cried in secret and moaned in solitude…trying to be strong for everybody, I was suffering from a different kind of heart problem. Instead of sharing my pain…I buried it…deep.

Here it is a year later and I’m finally dealing with it. I realize that there was something my wife mentioned back then (while she was in the hospital) that has bothered me but that I wasn’t dealing with. Christine, during one really vulnerable moment, mentioned how she wished she went home…and I don’t mean Hyde Park, NY. That statement shook me and made me wonder just how she could want to leave us…it really bothered me, so I pushed it deeper inside.

Today I realize that statement made by my wife a year ago is one of the reasons I love her so. On a piece of paper I wrote on a year ago I wrote this Scripture from Psalm 4, it didn’t seem to fit what I was going through then.

“Lord, you have put joy in my heart, more than they have when their grain and their wine are increased.” Psalm 4:7

I know my wife loves me, I know she loves her children, but thankfully, she loves Christ more. Her love for her God is something I admire and draws me closer to her. I can’t blame her for wanting to be with her savior, to be in His presence forever…that’s the heart condition I need. The joy comes a deep relationship with Him, not just when times are good (increased harvest) or in my case, because my wife survived a heart attack. No, the expectation is for Him, not for a life free of trials.

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.”  Psalm 39: 7

So, here I am. I’m being to unearth the pain and deal honestly with it all. I know that it is still a process…but hope is returning to strengthen my faith. I wrote a poem in 2002 that speaks to me today.

Wet with Hope

I have touched life
with handfuls of hope.

Letting it run through
my fingers.

Soaking all I wear.
Wetting my pathway.

I take my still wet hands to
my face and wipe it clean.

My eyes clear once more.
I see the place where
I’m standing.

It’s wet with hope,
uplifting my position.

Thanks for letting bear my soul a bit today…there is more to come.

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jasonS said…
I'm sure you could write a hundred posts dealing with the pain, uncertainty, and trust of those moments and days. Thank you for posting this. It's needed perspective and raw honesty, and I truly appreciate it. Thank you, Jay.
Jay Cookingham said…
Thanks Bro'...I know my pain is not greater than anybody else's and we all suffer at times. My deep dark night of the soul is just one of many that Father God cares about. Plus...my wife is doing great and is very healthy...so very much to be thankful for.
Michael said…
I'm glad she made it though. I couldn't imagine. The poem from 8 years ago was breathtaking. My favorite line was: I'm wet with hope...that is powerful...

As far as it being rough, this was perfect. I typically hit spell check, but I rarely edit anything after it is written. (which probably explains about my grammar)

Thanks for sharing this Jay.
Jay Cookingham said…
Thanks Michael, I appreciate the kindness and encouragement...I really do.
S. Etole said…
I was here earlier but the poem just kinda left me without words ... it still does. Thank you.
Jay Cookingham said…
Thank you...coming from a gifted poet such as yourself, I take that as huge compliment!
Jennifer@GDWJ said…
I'm in awe of her devotion to Jesus. Wow.

And Jay? I love that you just wrote this. No editing. Just raw, and from the heart. Cool.
Bill (cycleguy) said…
Jay: it is Sunday morning at 3:45 and I should be doing some studying but I am overwhelmed by this post. What a tremendous heart your wife has (and not the physical one). I can remember when my mom went to be with Jesus and I was with her over the few weeks she lingered from cancer. She would wake up and say, "oh, I'm still here." There would be genuine disappointment on her face. I knew that short of a miracle from God she would never recover. She longed to see her Savior's face as well as her mom & dad and others. She loved Jesus more than me and her other 3 sons. I applaud her and I "honor" you for your honesty and openness in this post. I pray she is well and strong.
Glynn Young said…
I think I would react exactly the same way, Jay. Deal with the crisis at hand; bury the feelings and emotions. I've read the post twice and asked myself all those questions about my wife of (almost) 37 years. It would be my prayer to sing "Jay's psalm."
Gary said…
So, way to go, Jay...roping us in to your heart and your hurt. Was up early this morning to do a bit more designing of my new blog, GenDads, but I'd faded last night with your Facebook comment on the screen.

For one thing you answered the question on my Wild Gray Goose personal blog (www.newseason.us) as to how long is too long for a blog post if it's a story. This ain't no "500 max" words, but you carried me along with a nice touch. But, the touch that was most important was on my heart. Knowing you (can that really happen in two dimensional social media?) made the difference. I felt for you and for Christine and for your children. It was not just a reading experience, but a personal one. Your confessional, salved by Psalms 4:7, prepared me for my own possible denial in the future. Contentment in extreme stress is reserved for those who utterly trust Him. Thanks for being a pace-setter on this.

And now, may I please get back to my blog design....if I smile about you and pray for you in the process?
HisFireFly said…

Oh please do continue to write raw.. that is where people are touched and changed for His glory!
Jay Cookingham said…
FireFly...thanks for that encouragement, I appreciate that!
Llusito said…
Thanks for your transparency, Jay. This was lovely!
Jay Cookingham said…
Thank you...Leigh, I appreciate it!

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