His Heart is Strong

On the night that I arrived at Walter Reed to meet Andy, a very capable and experienced charge nurse told me the best way to handle my first visit with Andy was to go into his room, look directly into his face, talk to him for a few moments and then she would remove me from the situation and brief me. I will forever be grateful for her wisdom and experience.

I was radically unprepared for what I saw and the truth is those few moments stretched out in front of me like days. Seeing Andy--my Army Andy--like that was beyond explanation or description. I'm still working on the words. Captain/Nurse was very wise and she rescued me from needing to be with him yet not wanting to embarrass him or redirect his staff by doing something stupid like falling in the floor in a heap in a big ol pile of sisterly mess.

She pulled me out and gave me an empty room to recompose in. And then she asked if I knew what was going on with him. I told her I'd only arrived a few moments before and had only the basic story. She began to relay his current assessments and conditions and concerns, graciously translating her medical-ease into lay-persons terms when I requested (which was quite often) and repeating what I didn't understand. Honestly, I don't remember most of what she said. It's captured in the haze of "my Army brother is down the hall in that bed--he's been shot". In those moments everything--and I do mean everything else seemed non-essential.

After several minutes of trying to listen coherently (and no doubt failing miserably), I managed to form a question. It was a moment of clarity that could only have come from the Father, because I have no idea why or how I got to that point. I asked her "what are the areas of primary concern today?"

She said: "the actual wound, the remaining frag and the possibility of fluid and infection in his lungs." She stopped, looked at his chart and said five words that rained down hope in my soul:

"His heart is very strong."

I'm sure she was speaking from a medical standpoint, pointing out that despite the trauma, his heart rate was strong and steady. And that was certainly reassuring information, in a laundry list of problems and questions that didn't contain an abundance of "good information". But this Captain/Nurse doesn't know my brother. His heart has been strong since the day he drew his first breath. Even I knew that. More than the medical, this was about the part of him that no bullet can shatter.

It was this phrase that stuck with me through the next few hours.
His heart is very strong.
His heart is very strong.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
His heart is very strong.

I needed something to hold onto and there it was. A good sign medically, no doubt, and also a statement of truth that I already knew was more true than anyone else on that wing even had a clue about. All rolled into the neat little five-word package.

His Heart is Strong.
After I came home I began writing these words down and I finished them on the plane today:

His body is hurting for the moment
His spirit has taken a beating
His mind is clouded and longing
His understanding not so certain
But he is not broken down
He cries silent forbidden tears
but let there be no doubt, his heart is strong

His arms are heavy from carrying more weight than one man should have to bear
His dreams are overshadowed with the living images that plague his mind
Sleep is healing and torturous and erratic

Confusion is his unwanted companion, his unbidden protector
He is bent but not broken
His heart is strong

His legs may never take another single step
but his journey is far from over
His fingers disobey his wishes and refuse his orders

but his eyes are blue and shining and he is here with me
His path has been altered but not abandoned
He is tall in spirit and yes, his heart is strong

He has given of himself for the country of his birth, for his family, his honor and his chosen bretheren
He has done great and mighty and horrible things
He has endured the fury of war and stared down fear without wavering
And he will again, on a different field of battle, no doubt
He soldiers on, every moment of every new day that comes
His heart is strong

He admits no defeat
He accepts no limits
He defies complacency
He denies uselessness
He refuses to question

He embraces the pain of progress and begs for more
He pushes onward and upward
He will boldly become more…more than he ever imagined
He goes to work
His heart is strong

Today his hands tremble,
tomorrow they will be grasping firmly
Today his voice is softened
tomorrow it will be resounding
Today he moves with trepidation and clumsiness
Tomorrow he will move with security and determination
Today he wonders what other people see
Tomorrow he will know that most people see more in him than ever before
Today his heart is strong
Tomorrow it will be even stronger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute to your brother!

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