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A Thankful Heart

Life is better when we share ourselves with others – finding common ground that links us together as people. At this time of year, we are making plans to join with family and friends to celebrate a time of thanksgiving, and beyond the seating plans and meal preparation, we are given a chance to express love and gratitude to those who bless our lives. If you have been affected by heart disease this year, you have a special reason to be thankful, but if you’re not, if you’re down and feeling victimized because of your illness, read on.

More than 800,000 people in America had heart attacks last year and less than half that number survived. That’s 1 in every 3 deaths in the USA, and out of those, 160,000 are under the age of 65. So even though we recognize that living with heart disease can be a struggle, can’t we be thankful that we didn’t end up on the other side of that equation and make the best of it?

It’s easy to become depressed after being in the hospital or laid up sick at home and having a heart attack often adds an emotional component that can really shake our world. The risk of depression and anxiety is high for cardiac event survivors so we need to take care not to let, what can be a sobering circumstance, become a crippling condition. Overcoming the difficulty of living with heart disease often takes a conscious decision and deciding to have a thankful heart can go a long way toward achieving the triumph we seek over hopelessness and despair.

There are many benefits to surviving difficult things, and one of them is clarity. After your cardiac event you can expect to see your choices very clearly. As we walk through this difficulty we recognize there are two paths. One, a path of self-pity, despondency, and despair, a second of cheerfulness, optimism, and hope. The first path is the easier of the two as it takes no effort at all to slip into the depths of depression and excuse yourself from life because things are tough. The second path takes some effort and a lot of faith because the possibilities are not evident at first but take it because the end of that path is life and there is nothing more precious.

You may not feel like you have anything to be thankful for this year. Perhaps, in addition to discovering you have heart disease, you’ve lost someone, or discord has disrupted your family. I met a woman recently who lost her husband just after they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, had a heart attack, and was diagnosed with cancer this year, yet she is thankful that she survived so she can help her daughter who struggles with addiction, and help her grandchildren who need someone to love and care for them in the midst of their trouble.

I encourage you during this thanksgiving season, to take stock of your life as a heart attack survivor. Count your blessings starting with the fact that you did survive and are among the living. Embrace life, cherish each moment, have a grateful heart filled with thankfulness for every sunrise, knowing God has given you a day full of opportunities and the chance to do something good. Your life may be difficult but think of the alternative. You have been given a rare gift – you nearly lost your life but now you can live it. So, if nothing else, be thankful that you’ve been entrusted with a new understanding of how truly precious life is.

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