“You’ve got blood clots in your lungs—a lot of them,” the doctor said as Lori sat beside me in the Emergency Room.
Fortunately, Lori didn’t understand exactly what that meant at the time. Unfortunately, I did. As a detective, I’d investigated numerous deaths where people never even made it to the ER to get that diagnosis. Pulmonary Embolisms (blood clots in the lungs) are often fast killers. I was in trouble and knew it.
The medical team began a precession of needles, tubes, and monitors (which always seemed to be taped to the hairiest parts of my chest, but I digress), and they whisked me off to ICU. Swell. After twenty-four-years in law enforcement, I expected I might get bullets in the lungs someday, but blood clots were never on the radar. That’s when Morty showed up.
My own mortality—better known to me now as “Morty”—forced his way into my hospital room and my head that night. Between the Marines, police work, and my own reckless youth, I’ve had an overabundance of opportunities to be dispatched into the netherworld and find it rather miraculous that I hadn’t been before this. I’d survived each incident and laughed off as no big deal. I’d treated Morty in the past like the crazy relative you only see every couple of years at family reunions. You can be cordial, say “hello”, then move on to the finger foods. No deep chats or understanding of who he is or what he wants. No reconciling or acknowledging his place in your life. But Morty will only be ignored for so long.
Lying on the gurney wondering if or when one of the blood clots might break loose, I couldn’t just blow off Morty any longer. I couldn’t remain in blissful denial of the reality of all mankind—we each have a timestamp on our lives with a firm expiration date.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” We can’t dodge destiny or cheat death.
Morty’s visitation that night forced me to examine if I really believe what I say I believe. Are the promises of God true, or just a comforting myth? (If they be myth, there’s no real comfort in them.) Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” and “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” A flood of other scriptures poured into my mind. I recounted God’s miracles in the Bible and in my own life, how He’s shown himself good and faithful in so many ways to me and my family—well beyond anything I deserved. After some wrestling with Morty and my own weaknesses and fears, I concluded that regardless of what would happen that night—if Morty and I held hands and skipped into Eternity together or if I recovered and got well—I was going to rest in God’s hands and take His promises at face value. The peace that followed was nothing short of amazing and sustained me through the rest of the hospital stay and into my recovery.
To be fair, in the time since the hospital stay, I’ve really come to appreciate Morty and what he can teach us. His ever-looming presence and occasional visits can help reorient our lives. Knowing that our days on Earth are numbered and short keeps us focused on what’s important—God, family, and relationships. The work I’ve done, cases I’ve investigated, books I’ve written will all soon be forgotten and account for little in the end. Not that we don’t live our lives and strive to do our best at our job and in life. We should honor God with everything we do and do it with excellence (Colossians 3:23). It’s simply about perspective. What is lasting and what isn’t. What will matter ten thousand years from now and what won’t, and prioritizing life accordingly. Morty has helped provide some clarity for me on that.
James 4:14 says, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
My hope and prayer is that the vapor trail of my life amounts to much more than just a noxious mix of gases, but might rather serve as a finger pointing to the One who holds all life in His hands. Thank you, Morty.