Last week I never got the chance to put my weekly message into the church bulletin. As I shall explain, there was a very, very good reason for this.
On Tuesday morning after I ate some early breakfast, I prepared to concelebrate the 9 AM daily Mass. However, sometime before Mass I began to experience severe chest pain. It was as if someone were standing on my chest making it hard to breathe. The pain shot down my left arm. I was nauseous. I sat on my bed at the rectory thinking that I might be having a heart attack. I had the classic symptoms. I popped a couple baby aspirin into my mouth and sent a text message downstairs to the parish secretary. She immediately came upstairs to help me.
To make a long story short, 9-1-1 was called, the ambulance arrived, an EKG was taken and I was quickly on my way to the hospital. When I arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, I was taken to the heart catherization lab. There they discovered that two of my arteries were 100% blocked and the doctors proceeded to place three stents strategically in those arteries after they were re-opened.
It all happened so rapidly. I was in and out of consciousness. I remember some of the conversations going on, but not everything.
Subsequently, one of the doctors informed me that there was no major heart damage despite the blockages. Thanks be to God! I was back to the rectory by Thursday evening and once again concelebrated daily Mass the next day.
I am a very fortunate man. There is a history of heart problems in my family. My father died of a heart attack at 64. Both his parents died in a similar manner in their early sixties. One of my younger brothers had a heart attack last year at 52. Like me, he survived it. Need I go on?
Incidentally, I have faced my mortality several times in my life. I almost drowned in the Atlantic Ocean twice. I could have been killed or seriously injured in a couple of nearly-averted car accidents—one of which saw my car spin out-of-control a full 360 degrees on black ice on a two-lane highway when I was in the seminary.
Believe it or not, I try to be super cautious. I see my doctors regularly. I have my blood work done every three months. My cholesterol and blood sugar are under control. I had been losing weight, walking and exercising at the gym. Nobody, including me, saw this coming. Except God, of course!
I thought of one of Jesus’ parables after all of this happened:
Then [Jesus] told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12: 16-21)
Truth be told, I do not really fear death itself. What I fear is not being right with God when I die. How important it is to be in the state of grace! We are given many tools to assist us: Confession, the Mass and Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Sick, etc. Take advantage of them before it is too late! One never knows.
Hopefully, I’ll be around for many years to come. There is no absolute certainty, however. All I can do is go on faithfully serving the Lord, while trusting in His merciful love.
Thank you Lord for some more time!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
(PS, thanks for your prayers!)