A month or two after I was listed for a heart transplant on August 20, 2008 my parents, brothers and sisters along with their spouses, a few of which were in town from Dallas and Las Vegas, gathered in my grandparent’s home to discuss the transplant list and the serious nature of my heart failure. We had a family prayer and then my Dad said something to the effect, “We are going to have a rather tough year ahead of us, but I feel Paul is going to make it.”
After we discussed several other issues, my father and brothers gathered around me and blessed me according to the traditions of my Mormon faith . Led by my father and the faith of my sisters in the room, my brothers gave me what we call a priesthood blessing . As part of the experience I was told I would feel God’s love through the ordeal and be blessed with strength to endure the challenges ahead. In addition, my father was impressed to say I would get well.
As 2009 draws to a close, looking back who would have thought that two of the men in that room would have passed away leaving me with a miraculous recovery and a second chance at life?
Within seven months, my younger brother Brian was tragically killed in a taser incident the details of which are confusing, ridiculous, and painful. This was a sad and unfortunate event that obviously could have been prevented. I continue to wrestle with the nature of his death.
Here I was waiting for a new heart, which requires someone to die, my whole family praying for my survival, and another member of our family dies.
Could life be anymore ironic? Where could I find understanding and peace? How can any of us find answers to life’s most challenging moments with such tragedy?
Devastated and heartbroken our family understood the sacrifice, heartache and pain my donor’s family would feel losing their son, brother, father, and friend.
Later, my grandfather Layton, who joined us in that room with Brian more than a year ago, quietly slipped to the other side on a Sunday evening in November. This was a much more welcomed occasion because he had enjoyed a full life and raised a large posterity of more than 100 people loyal to one another.
For me, with the passing of these great men, including my donor, I found strength in prayer, attending Church to be with others who also love God, reading inspiring books, and overall, listening intently to music. The right type of music always opens a conduit to heaven for me.
I was particularly inspired by fellow musician Steven Curtis Chapman, who released an album inspired by his struggle to deal with the death of his own daughter. His son backed the car out of the driveway accidentally injuring the little girl who later was pronounced dead at the hospital.
As Chapman struggled to find hope and understanding from a kind and merciful God he'd proclaim to believe in his entire life, he humbly wrote the words It was the day the world went wrong I screamed til my voice was gone And watched through the tears as everything came crashing down Slowly panic turns to pain As we awake to what remains and sift through the ashes that are left behind
But buried deep beneath All our broken dreams we have this hope:
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise and we will dance among the ruins We will see Him with our own eyes Out of these ashes... beauty will rise For we know, joy is coming in the morning... in the morning, beauty will rise
Photo: Taking my daughter Eden snowmobiling. Just one of the many amazing things I can do with my hear transplant
Truly, this has been a year of life and death, joy and sadness, miracles and tragedy. I have been grieving not only my brother and grandfather, but I am grieving my donor. Nonetheless, I do believe out of these ashes beauty will rise!
As I’ve taken this journey I’ve come to know other people suffering from congenital heart defects and terminal diseases. I’ve attended too many funerals. Each one has been extremely special, important, as has reaffirmed to me the reality of God and life after death. To say this life is all there is, for me, is madness. No matter what science proves science belongs to God. It is His tool to save mankind and redeem them from a fallen state to a state of eternal happiness.
I am grateful for life. We have no idea when it will be over. We don’t know our time to leave this beautiful world unless we have a terminal diagnosis. As one who was faced with death in 2009, and somehow by the grace of God has been given a new lease on life, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for those of you who prayed selflessly for our family this past year. Truly, 2009 has been one to remember. Our souls have been stretched and our relationship to the Creator has been strengthened. Photo: My daughter Eden with my brother Brian's daughter Ava
Here’s to 2010, may there be less trials and tribulations and more laughter, silly behavior, and fun memories.
And on a serious note, when your depressed or your heart is aching remember these words from Steven Curtis Chapman which helped me through 2009.
When you think you've hit the bottom and the bottom gives way and you fall into a darkness no words can explain and you don't know how you make it out alive Jesus will meet you there.
When the doctor says, "I'm sorry, we don't know what else to do." and you're looking at your family wondering how they'll make it through... Whatever road this life takes you down, Jesus will meet you there. He knows the way to wherever you are He knows the way to the depths of your heart He knows the way cuz he's already been where you're going Jesus will meet you there.
Photo: Having a great time at Fratelli Ristorante in Sandy, Utah for our family Christmas dinner.