by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 5/29/14

“We had to put in another stint,” the doctor said. This was the sixth time in two years that a cardiologist delivered this news to my family. My mother, the matriarch of my side of the family, was once again in the hospital for heart work. As the family doctor, I had responsibilities. Okay, I am not that kind of doctor, but it didn’t stop me from going into research mode, as I perused Wikipedia and Googled more than I probably should from WebMD.

I found articles that conceptually helped me understand Mom’s condition and the inner workings of the heart. By the end of my cram session on cardiology, I felt disconnected from the way we normally talk about our hearts. All of this functional language reminded me of the curious ways we speak of “taking heart.” We use the heart as a metaphor for so many things. If someone is warm and caring, we might say, “That person has heart.” Well of course they do, but the biology isn’t the point. If someone is in distress, they might describe their feelings as being “heartbroken.” There is the ever-present language of having Jesus in your heart.

In my heart search, I happened upon a piece of art that has stuck with me in the weeks following Mom’s procedure. If you need to reflect on the beauty of the heart and to wonder, even, about the beauty within, I would encourage to you consider Eva Milinkovic’s work, “Ventricle” from Tsunami glassworks. This hand blown sculptural vase embodies both the organic function and the beauty of the human heart. Reflecting on the piece, I was reminded of the deep beauty of life.

Mom left the hospital with a command for a heart healthy diet and a prescription for group cardiac rehab. I couldn’t help but think about how many people need the same help in rehabbing their inner lives. But maybe that is why we are here together. The church should be, as the old adage goes, a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.