So I Beat On

Mary - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on November 5, 2007

I believe in my broken and defective heart. I believe in the pacemaker, the drugs and the various medical teams that help keep it beating. I believe that it is because I am fully aware of my heart’s limitations that I have lived my life to far exceed them, if not, pardon the pun, outpace them.

With this failing heart I have run 10Ks, biked the expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge, climbed fourteeners (while pregnant) in the Colorado Rockies, slept under the stars on the frozen, snow-capped Oregonian mountains and scaled cracks of inverted rock facades over the rushing gorges of Great Falls, Virginia. With this failing heart, I have given birth naturally—twice.

I have done these “risky” things, because I know that my heart (like everyone else’s) will ultimately stop beating one day—and because this heart, this life rather, is the only one I got.

I know this because I have been on the precipice of death many times. And for this, I am extremely grateful. Mostly, I am grateful for the numerous times I have awoken. And not just because I indeed discovered or was granted, yet another chance, but because of what I woke up to—a life I am fully aware of and people who in moments of my own fragility, showed me the qualities of which I can only aspire to: bravery, persistence, resolute faithfulness, courageousness, and above all, selflessness.

Like the brave good Samaritans on Metro platform in D.C., who without knowing me, saved my life. Like the persistent EMT who brought me back after my heart stopped beating (but not before the car I was driving did after crashing through another car and six-foot snow embankment). Like my ever-faithful mother and father, who on more times than I can count stooped over me while taking my pulse and praying their Hail Marys, believed, without question, I would be all right and that God would indeed take care of me—and if not me—at least them. Like my two courageous children, who while crying out and begging for me to return to them, held my face in their chubby hands. Like my selfless husband, who lost his own mother to breast cancer at an early age and then watched his own widowed father raise two children alone, took the risk and married me anyway, knowing that his fate may not be unlike his own father’s.

I believe in this failing, defective heart that has beat within me, albeit haphazardly, over the past thirty years, because it has lead me—unfailingly—toward memorable experiences and beautiful, inspirational people, and above all, the appreciation for both.

I believe it is in the moments when we not only follow our heart to wherever and to whoever it leads us, but when we are pushing limits of what our heart can do, both physically or metaphorically, we are most alive.

This is why, as Fitzgerald, so aptly put it, I “beat on…” This I believe.