The Wait

The waiting is the hardest part/Every day you see one more card/You take it on faith, you take it to the heart/The waiting is the hardest part.

I am entering week two of my long road to open-heart surgery. Next Friday, I will be in the capable hands of a surgical team. In the meantime, I’m able to live my life right now as I want to, as long as I chill out. But Tom Petty (z”l) had it right: the waiting IS the hardest part.

I think a lot about this journey I’m on. Thoughts are always percolating. My mind spins like a centrifuge, whirring at a frightful speed. I try not to talk about it… Yet I talk about it obsessively.

People tell me this is normal. After all, next Friday, Dr. Kamal Khabbaz is going to split my sternum open and stop my heart. That is not a ‘procedure.’ It’s the real thing.Given all of this, I want to reframe my life for a brief moment. I want to shift from the existential life and death moment I am entering (and yes, I know the survival rate for bypass surgery is 97%), to a place of gratitude.

This is my incomplete list of gratitude, in no particular order:

I am thankful to be living in the greater Boston area that has, in addition to lots of good sports teams, the best medical care in the world.

I am thankful for Dr. Johanna Klein and Dr. Loryn Feinberg and their professional insight and their humanity. Their gentle medical care directed me for that stress test and now, to healing.

I am thankful to Dr. Kamal Khabbaz and the team that will be taking care of me on the operating table, and I am thankful for all of the docs, RNs, NPs, PAs, techs, orderlies, and others who will be getting back up and out.

I am thankful to my congregation, to former Texas congregants, and to my friends who have reached out to express love and support and suggestions. They have offered meals and walks and meditation tapes and all-around loving support.I am thankful for my family.

My wife, Liza, is a powerful and directed woman. Her presence by my side for 40 years, her love and support have given me strength. I will be depending on her and our kids and grandkids, to keep me going.And I am thankful to God. You know that gesture Big Papi made all the time. Lots of ballplayers use it after a home-run? When they cross home plate, they look up to the heavens and point an index finger at the sky? That’s what I plan to do as they wheel me to the car. It’ll be shorthand for thanksgiving, a reminder that the Holy One has surrounded me with blessing.

One thought on “The Wait

  1. Gary Golden says:

    Hi Rabbi Stern,
    Your Online Shabbat service was so inspirational tonight and so needed. Your comments on bringing on the light with courage are exactly what we as Jews need to do. This will sustain us and others we can assist in these troubling times.
    You have been a great inspiration to me and my family over the years.
    I wish you all the best and a speedy recovery with your surgery.

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