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The Best Hug I Ever Got

Larry Jansen
Originally published in The Wichita Eagle section "My Turn" under the title, His 'Weak Heart' Feels Stronger In His Faith, September 7, 1995.
  Printed with the permission of the author.
© 1999 Larry Jansen

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.... Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Ephesians 4:32 and I John 3:18
As I lay on the cold table, still hurting from the heart catheterization, the cardiologist told me all the arteries looked fine. There was no blockage. She said it looked like I had a weak heart, and that did not sound too bad. I was happy.
She walked into my room three hours later and explained the significance of a weak heart. The impact of those words would sink deep into my soul, and change my life forever. A weak heart, if it does not respond to drugs, must be replaced. I don't remember much after the words "heart" and "transplant." There was one other time in my life I had felt this chilling numbness.
I will never forget that day. It began as a day of joy and great anticipation. I had survived the mortification of carrying the pillows to the Lamaze classes, and here I was watching my daughter come into the world. My spirit soared with delight to new heights, swooping down momentarily to allow the release of emotion through my profound utterances ("Oh, Wow!") before it climbed back into the heavens.
Tears of happiness welled up in my eyes as I envisioned the perfect life for my little girl. It did not take me long to mentally walk her down the aisle to wed a rich doctor. She had already been cheerleader, Homecoming Queen, National Honor Society Member, Valedictorian and all of that. I work fast.
Yet, as high and as far as my spirit soared, it was plunged so quickly and brutally into the depths of despair that I had no time to catch my breath. I will never forget the deep despair which surrounded me like the cold sterility of the operating room as I stood in anguish listening to the doctor tell me I was the father of a child with Down's Syndrome. He was trying to console me by saying that the handicapped people of his church "made the nicest little belts and billfolds."
Maybe for an instant I experienced the feelings of our Christ, hanging from that brutal cross and crying out, "My God, My God—why have you forsaken me?" I felt the grief of lost opportunities, the sting of unfulfilled expectations, and the fear of what might lay ahead. I just stood there and listened as this man hurt me because he did not know what to say.
This very large, black nurse came slowly over, put her arms around me, and squeezed me back into reality with her compassion. What a hug! It continually reminds me to be thankful for the hugs of God, who is always squeezing me back to the realities of His promise: I am with you always. I hope I can be there to see the look on this compassionate nurse's face when she finds out she did it "to the least of these." I hope there are many more people around like her. I'm going to need a lot of these hugs.

Lord of all Highs and Lows,
I'm not always ready for life to put me on this emotional roller coaster. Forgive me when I get down in the dumps because my expectations were too high. Help me realize that life is not like the movies, or television, that there are unhappy endings. Help me understand the realities and limitations of human existence.
Thank you for being there. If I'm as high as Heaven, there you are. If I'm low as Hell, there you are. Forgive me when I forget you are with me, but sometimes the pain is so strong I can't see you. Sometimes the fear is so large I only hide behind it. Thank you for the people who hug, and the deliverance they bring. In the name of the one who hugged even Judas, Amen.

P.S. You did know what you were doing when you gave me Rachel. She is a delight, and has taught me that you love everyone in spite of his or her imperfections. I can't imagine life without her.

Larry Jansen is the author of My Sister Is Special published in 1998.

Revised: March 8, 2001.