Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Life: I've Experienced a Life Changing Event (Part 2)

Before I leave the subject of my recent surgery, I’d like to express a word or two about religion and what role it plays in my life – more importantly what I believe.
This is an awkward subject in that I have had close friends and relatives who are, for lack of a better word, religious.  On the other hand, I have had close friends and relatives who were atheists – at least I think that is how they would describe themselves.

There is a saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes.’  I tend to believe that, but can’t say with certainty.  I’ve never been in a military operation where death seemed probable or imminent.  Even if I had been, I’m convinced that would not be a priority topic for discussion among my comrades-in-arms.  It’s just too personal.

On a bit of an aside, awhile back I was reading about D-Day (June 6, 1944).  There were many dying young men on the beaches, many merely boys.  Medics reported that dying soldiers did not, for the most part, call out to God.  They often called for their mothers.  I found that statement troubling and hard to forget.

The type of heart surgery I had can be a little scary.  They, after all, cut/saw your chest open and stop your heart while they make repairs.  That said, we are so lucky/blessed to have the expert medical care that actually accomplishes this type of surgery – as well as even more difficult surgeries – on a day to day basis, on hundreds if not thousands of people.

In my last meeting with the cardiac surgeon, before surgery, he was actually pretty upbeat – stating that he had done more than 30,000 similar surgeries.  This was shocking – “30,000.”  Then you start thinking maybe he will get bored with this particular operation, maybe lose focus and start thinking about playing golf later that day; or even worse – nod off during the procedure.  He said that my surgery had a 99% chance of success and a complete recovery.  I didn’t say it, but my immediate thought was:  What about the other 1%?  I did say “that sounds pretty good.”  He smiled and went on his way.

What is odd, from my perspective, is that he never asked anything about me.  My wife was there so he knew I had family; but he asked nothing about me personally:  What do you do in life?  Are you retired?  Do you have kids, grandkids?  Hobbies?  A dog?  I guess he knew everything about me that he cared to know from the various x-rays, blood tests, my DOB, and my overall physical appearance.  I was just number 30,002 as far as he was concerned.  A few weeks later I went to his office for a follow-up, but he had an emergency surgery so my wife and I just talked to his nurse – who, incidentally, was quite nice.

What does this have to do with religion?  Well, I said a little prayer while they were wheeling me down to surgery.  I did not ask for a successful surgery – too presumptuous.  And what I did say (think) or ask from God is private.

In the way of full disclosure, I’m not what you would consider a religious person.  I consider myself an agnostic.  I don’t know if there is a God.  I don’t know that there isn’t a God.  Those who have an established religious faith – I say ‘good for you;’ but, as far as I’m concerned no one knows with absolute certainty there is a God.  That said, no one, including self-avowed atheists, even those willing to shout their atheism from the roof tops, know there is not a God.  It is the ultimate unknowable.  Someday, that final day, we will know or we won’t know.  But, in the future, I plan to focus on the Golden Rule.  That might be adequate.

Memorial Day is this coming Monday.  Let’s remember… the boys.

True Nelson