Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Open Heart - Elie Wiesel

This is a very short story of the author's experience of open heart surgery at 82 years old.  He is of course,the renowned author of "Night", his story of surviving the Nazi death camps.  Having recently read Proof of Heaven about near-death experience, I was intrigued to read of Wiesel's.

His anxiety before going into surgery and fear that he may not see his wife and son again, that he may die is palatable.  I have had several surgeries yet I don't remember thinking I would not be waking up shortly and would experience a quick recovery.  His perspective at 82 is a lesson.

He explains that before being anesthetized,  before "giving up his soul", if he has no time to prepare, a Jew must recite a short prayer and he stops the doctor to say one to himself beforehand.  He is surprised that he is afraid of death, after all he has experienced in life. He reflects that "I learned that, sadly, when the body becomes a prisoner of its pain, a pill or an injection is more helpful than the most brilliant philosophical idea."

He is deeply grateful when he learns the surgery went well in recovery.  He's deep love for his son who is at his side reminds him of the scripture "you shall chose life" and reflects on his life as he recuperates in the hospital.  He questions if he has done all he could with his life, in his writings, his teachings and the humanitarian foundation he founded.  He reflects that his body is still teaching him things about himself .  He reiterates that "I still believe in man in spite of man".

Finally, he asks "is it possible to come so close to the end without something essential changing in us?  Has my perception of death changed?" and answers, "yes" and then admits they he has remained much the same.  He still chooses gratitude over anger and "goes on breathing from prayer to prayer".

I found this reflection much more meaningful than that of the neurologist in Proof of Heaven because it reaffirms a faith chosen every day, despite reasons not to, rather than one adopted in crisis.

Published: 2012   Read: May 2013   Genre: Memoir

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