I Was Born With This Heart
January 20, 1995 was a day that changed my life forever. I was seventeen years old and unexpectedly lost my dad to a massive heart attack. There was no preparation and no goodbye. In fact, he and my mom were planning to go out dancing that night. Instead, she came home to find him on the bedroom floor.
Because I lost him so young I often felt cheated out of all the years I didn’t get to spend with him, and how he didn’t get to see me grow beyond the snotty, selfish teenager I was when he died. But as the years go by – 24 now – I’m starting to see that my eight older siblings and I all have him for the same amount of time: our whole lives.
This is because the memory of everything my dad was and did and taught is just as strong in my mind today as it was the day he left this earth…no, stronger. Stronger because I’ve had all my own experiences to remind me just how right he often was. No matter if my oldest brother had him in his life for 37 years and I “only” got 17 – I’m pretty sure we would all agree that is true. His wisdom did not leave with his soul.
Every year around the anniversary of his passing I like to create something to honor him and help keep him alive for us kids and and grandkids, especially the grandchildren who never got to know him at all, including my son. This year I created a video talking about his heart, my heart…and yours. I hope this blesses you, and reminds you to hold your loved ones tight. We never know when their work here may be done.
Not in the mood for a video? It’s okay…the greatest impact will come from the video and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it, but the text of the video is here to read as well. Blessings!
Your heart is a marvel of science and mechanics. It beats about 100,000 times a day with no break. It has its own electrical impulse, making it capable of beating outside your body. Your heart contains neurons, which HeartMath Institute refers to as the little brain in the heart. If someone tells you that you “have heart” that’s quite a compliment. For if you’re not living with heart, you’re not living at all.
When I was 17 my father had been struggling with walking pneumonia for a while and he went to the doctor. The good doctor whipped out his stethoscope and after listening to my dad’s heart for three seconds he told him he needed to see a cardiologist right away. Of course he refused. As Dad walked out of the exam room he told the doctor, “I was born with this heart, and I’ll die with it.” And he did. Three days later.
My dad was born premature. I don’t know how premature he was but I do know that he weighed 3 ½ pounds upon delivery with my grandfather acting as obstetrician. This is most likely what caused his heart murmur. I remember playing with an old stethoscope we had at home when I was little, listening to the curious bump-whoosh, bump-whoosh of my dad’s heart. Someone with a heart condition probably shouldn’t smoke a pack of cigarettes per day, but try to tell my dad what to do. However, if anyone could take a deck of cards stacked against them and build a castle of stone, it was my dad.
With that heart, my dad defeated the odds by becoming a first generation farmer and he farmed successfully for decades. He ran for public office as the out-of-favor party…and lost. Twice. He taught himself to be a veterinarian, a mechanic, an engineer and an architect all without the benefit of Google or YouTube. But most of all, he produced nine healthy, strong and productive children who are also full of heart.
In the movie Hollywood made about Queen Elizabeth the first there was a dramatic scene where she passionately states, “I am my father’s daughter.” Ever since I heard that I held onto it. Every time I was faced with a new challenge and didn’t know what to do, I thought, “I am my father’s daughter. If he could do all that, I can get through this.” Because I was born with this heart and I’ll die with it.
Flaws and all, I was born with this heart. The one that yearns to write everything. The heart that doesn’t fear rejection. The heart that knows every hardship I endure is only creating a better future. The heart that forgives. The heart that extends grace. The heart that loves to support others and watch them achieve their dreams. This heart, the one that doesn’t give up. This is the one that I was born with.
One of the most frequently cited regrets of the dying is this: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself instead of the life expected of me by others. As they realized they had little life left to live, they spent their last moments with regret. The regret that they had allowed their heart to be suffocated and then revived with a pace maker designed by someone who didn’t know the rhythm of their true heart at all.
This was one of my dad’s greatest lessons to me. There was never any doubt that he was living his life straight from his heart, and the world is all the better for it.
Today I ask you to think about your heart. What is your heart saying to you? Are you listening? Are you letting your heart be your guide? Is your life a reflection of your heart? Or has your heart been silenced? Been made cold? The world is not always a friendly place to the heart. People lie to us, hurt us, cheat and steal. They force upon us their beliefs, their ways, their approved methods. But underneath it all, your heart still beats away, waiting for you to rediscover its power.
If your heart has been a whisper, I encourage you to go within. Be silent. Listen to what your heart has to say. If it tells you to do something crazy in order to break free from the shackles of expectations of others, then maybe that’s exactly what you need to do to start letting that power out again.
It’s my hope and prayer that all of us, when we are three days from death, can stand up and proudly say, “I was born with this heart, and I’ll die with it.”