Menu Close

That Makes Me Think of Eternity

polly 2016

Early Tuesday morning, my wife, Polly, got up to use the bathroom. Upon her return to bed she said to me, something is not right. My heart is beating like crazy. I could tell she was quite worried, so I got my blood pressure machine and had Polly check her blood pressure. Sure enough, Polly’s blood pressure was 158/100 and her pulse rate was 158. On Monday, Polly had her annual health exam. Her blood pressure was 120/70 and her pulse rate was 65.

I told Polly to get dressed so I could take to her the emergency room in nearby Bryan. Polly is Mrs. Healthy. She’s had never been to the emergency room and her only hospitalizations were for six pregnancies. Polly has worked for Sauder Woodworking for almost twenty years. She’s never missed a day’s work. She has been to the emergency room and hospital numerous times with me, but her experiences on Tuesday were new to her.

The ER doctor quickly determined that Polly had atrial fibrillation-rvr — a heart rhythm problem. The upper chambers of Polly’s heart were out of sync with the lower chambers. Left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Polly was given several medications and put on an IV. The doctor informed her that she would likely be in the hospital overnight. For the next six hours, I watched the heart machine as it recorded Polly’s heart rate bouncing all over the place. The medication eventually brought her heart rate down, but it was still bouncing from 80 to 110. Finally, around 2:00 PM, Polly’s heart decided it was tired of jumping around and returned to a normal rhythm. The doctor released her at 5:00 PM and we came home, exhausted from a busy, frightening day.

I had let Polly’s parents know that she was in the hospital. That afternoon, Polly called her Mom to let her know what was up. During the conversation, Polly’s Mom tried to evangelize her, saying, that [Polly’s heart problem] makes me think of eternity. Polly quickly and angrily shut off this line of conversation, curtly saying, I’m fine. (It has been nine years since Polly and I left Christianity. Her parents have yet to have a conversation with us about why we are no longer Christians.)

The conversation ended shortly thereafter. Polly’s Mom told her, I’m praying for you daily. At a loss as to what to do about our turn from Jesus to Satan, Mom and Dad have taken to daily praying for us. In their minds, if we would just get back in church all would be well. They hold out the hope that we will return to Jesus and start serving him again. Deep down I wonder if Mom doesn’t think I am the reason for Polly’s deconversion, and that once I am dead and gone and she is free of me, her daughter will return to Christianity. Little does Mom know that Polly is much more strident in her unbelief than I am. I may be more vocal about it than Polly is, but she has zero interest in anything associated with religion.

As Mom was giving her evangelistic spiel, this daughter of a Baptist preacher, wife of former Evangelical preacher, mother of six, and grandmother to eleven, raised her hand and gave the phone a middle finger salute. Polly will never tell Mom to fuck off, but the sentiment is there. She’s done with religion, and so am I.

Polly’s heart problem is a screaming reminder to us that life is short. Everyone expects me to die first. After all, I’ve been dealing with chronic health problems for twenty years. It makes perfect sense that I would be the one to make it to the crematorium first. However, life often does not make sense, nor is life fair. Proverbs 27:1 is right when it says, Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. I was reminded on early Tuesday morning that those I love and hold dear can be quickly snatched from my hands. Treat every day as your last. Someday, it will be.


  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    My mother had heart arrhythmia for several years before her body succumbed to other problems. A good friend’s wife has suffered from it for a couple of decades at least. Scary but just really something to medicate and watch.

    Love and hugs to both of you.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Bruce. Modern heart medications are really good at controlling these heart rhythm aberrations. I think Polly will be just fine as long as she takes her medication—which might be for the rest of her life—but most of it is cheap generic medicine that has been around for quite a while.

    Blessings, love, and peace.

  3. Avatar
    Susannah Anderson

    A scary episode! I’m glad she’s ok, and hope medication will stave off any repeats.
    Parents are supposed to be a comfort; it’s painful when instead they try to evangelize you in moments of stress. (Been there; did my share of ranting. I fully approve of that one-finger salute she gave.)

  4. Avatar

    It sounds like Polly is a strong, dependable, and wise person. Glad she’s doing better & sorry you two had such a scare; my kind thoughts are with you both.

  5. Avatar

    Wow, pulse rate of 158 is where I get to in a vigorous gym session and after at least 20 minutes, so that’s not right at rest. It’s good to know the medication is working. Polly seems to be a tough lady so I’m sure she’ll just take this right in her stride.

  6. Avatar

    I’m glad you are both home. My mom has this and has done well on her medication and has enjoyed …and continues to enjoy… in its fullest. I think medication will help Polly do the same. But I understand how scary this must have been for the two of you. I’ve been reading your blog for a good while and appreciate what you write.

  7. Avatar
    Paul McLaughlin

    I’m so glad Polly is okay. You two are a beacon in a dark world, a lighthouse in a stormy sea.

    I don’t want to sound critical at a time like this, and I am definitely not recommending medical passivity, but I would like to share my opinion on the “life is short” meme. I think it comes straight out of Xtian evangelical thinking – life is short so you better repent your sins before you die.

    Actually, the lives of 21st century white people are the longest of any major population in history. At 71, I contemplate death with equanimity because I have had a good, long life. I have had the extreme good fortune to have been born a Canadian and to have lived long and prospered. I don’t take credit for that, but I don’t credit god either – any god. I have done some bad things – we all have – which I regret, but I take credit for the fact that the good things I have done outnumber the bad, both in my personal life and in my professional life as a lawyer. I have close family and friends and loyal clients. When I die, I will be grieved.

    So, at least for many of us, life is long. We don’t know when it will end so we should do good works every day, not to deposit in the Salvation Bank of Eternity (TM), but because it’s the right thing to do in the here and now. Can I prove this? No: it’s what I take on faith.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Oh, I agree with you on “life is short “ being a religious construct. That said, I use the phrase in the sense that our day of death is uncertain and at age 60 six-sevenths to three-quarters of my life is on the rear view mirror.

      Like you, I try to do all the good I can, not out of the promise of life eternal, but because I’m decent human being.

  8. Avatar

    Well Bruce and Polly, your preacher family is a carbon copy of mine, all the woo welling up at the first opportunity! The virus erupts so handily and so provocatively just because it must! How else does the believer maintain denial of their human trepidations, their buried issues about loss and mortality. Jesus takes care of everything so no need to feel or talk about anything; just quote some apt scripture and turn to How Great Thou Art, for a little hymn-sing.
    I am sorry you have to face this ‘gauntlet’ in times of crisis, even if it does not phase you or Polly. I find it annoying and sad that parents do this sort of thing. I feel very strongly that my preacher dad covered his pain with Jesus’ blood and refused to share his emotional life with me because of religion. Thank-you Jesus! I see it happening still in our family among the nieces and nephews who are young parents now.
    Just this last week my nephew, a Master of Social Work, told me has never understood how I view my parents so differently than his own dad does. His dad is of course a complete manic evangelical. When I explain my difficulty with Christian upbringing, with the excessive focus of evangelicalism, my nephew is just confused and says I am needing to forgive and love as Christ loved. He cannot even hear my human experience of loss, my simple sadness that needs to be shared and not given to gawds and prayers. He prefers to deny me and tell me verses.
    I am glad to hear that Polly looked after her physical illness and is stabilized. I will cherish the image of her digitus impudicus for a good long time!

  9. Avatar

    I just want to add my well-wishes to Polly. I have heart problems and know how frightening it can be. I’m glad you responded quickly and that Polly is home again. May peace and love abound.

  10. Avatar

    It’s rough to deal with unforeseen health issues, and adding emotional family issues on topaper is a tough combination. Glad that you both sought out medical care – which is appropriate in a health situation rather than relying on a deity that may or may not have helped because, you know, one cannot fathom god’s will. Medical advances these days are phenomenal.

  11. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    I just read this. Bruce, tell Polly I’m thinking of her and hoping for the best. Yes modern medicine can do so much. I’ve had mild irregular heartbeat for at least 30 years. It’s mild because my heart occasionally skips beats or adds beats. It gets worse depending on other meds I take. Right now it seems quiescent. Obviously my condition is NOT the same. But it is terrifying when it is happening to our own heart.

    Anyway, I believe/hope that Polly will get the right medicine and be around for you to love and cherish for some time.

  12. Avatar

    I’m so glad Polly is alright, it’s scary when something like that happens. I hope you got ALL the referrals and that Polly keeps the appointments…Warm regards and no woo or prayers.

  13. Avatar

    It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. 😀
    Seriously, though, I hope the docs get this under control. I really hate those mad dashes to ER. 🙁

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Discover more from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Bruce Gerencser