Gift of the Heart
I Knocked on the door to Robert's house, hoping I would have the courage to ask the question, hoping that this time, the lump of grief that had taken permanent residence at the base of my throat would not interfere and choke my opportunity to make my request. I had tried so many times before. And so many times before, that dreaded lump of grief stole my voice, denying me a means with which to make my request. Waiting outside the door, I could feel my palms getting wet as my knee caps began a little frenetic dance of their own. Standing in the warm Albuquerque sunshine, I practiced, in my head, what I would say when he opened the door. And I worried,“What if Robert didn't open the door?” Taking big gulps of air, I told myself to relax. Hearing footsteps, my heart skipped a beat. The door opened and smiling widely, Robert greeted me.
My hands outstretched, I embraced Robert in a big hug. “Ask Now, Now, Now!”rang in my head. Gulping the air once more, I blurted, “Robert, can I listen to Jeremy's heart?”On previous visits, I had wanted to make this request. I always choked up at the thought and those words I could not muster.
Still smiling, he replied, “I'm surprised, Mushroom, that you hadn't asked before. Of course you can listen to this most marvelous gift that your family gave me. Would you like to use your ear, a glass or the stethoscope?”
My ear was the only choice I would consider. I wanted to feel my son, hug my son, hold my son. I told Robert that if I cried that it was OK. Sitting in his big easy chair, Robert pointed to his chest. Leaning over the arm of his chair, I put my ear to his chest and listened to the “gift”thumping happily in Robert's chest. Beating with the strength and vigor of a 22 year old, Jeremy's heart let me know that life was good.
Robert, along with his wife and two teenage children, chatted with me for a while. Robert told me how grateful he was for the gift of Jeremy's heart. The doctor told him that his new heart was healthy and strong and that it should last him a long time. I expressed my gratitude for the news. It was news from the heart, so to speak. Our conversation moved on to talk of work, family and future plans only interrupted by sips of soda and an occasional laugh. When our conversation came to its natural conclusion, I got up to leave.
As Robert opened the door he offered me one more opportunity to listen to the gift we had given him. Standing, I put my arms around him, sunk my ear into his chest and whispered inaudibly, “Jeremy, I miss you. I love you and will forever.” Tears began to flow once again. Releasing the hold I had on Robert, I regained my composure. Tears were flowing out of Robert's eyes as he said, “Ya know, Mushroom, I am not a touchy, feely kind of guy, but when you were hugging me, I have never felt so loved in all of my life.” The lump in my throat prevented any reply. I gave Robert one more hug and walked out the door.
Robert didn't realize what a heartfelt gift his last words have given me.