Numbers often seem dull, but they can be very revealing.
Take the number five, for example.
There are five books in the Torah, five foundational books in the New Testament, and five basic pillars—or beliefs–of Islam. Mayans believe we are now living in the Fifth World. Wiccans maintain there are five elements: earth, fire, wind, water and ether. Discordians argue everything happens in fives or in multiples of fives. Numerologists contend the number five represents a crisis point or a state of instability in the life cycle. And I have religiously published an average of five columns a week since I started this blog on April 16th.
Until this week.
As a few of you have noted with some puzzlement, I’ve been uncharacteristically silent since last Friday, when I posted a tongue-in-cheek column about the impending destruction of the Earth by a rogue asteroid with the impersonal numeric name of 2009 TM8.
My reasons for not putting pen to paper, or perhaps I should say keyboard to screen, have a lot to do with numbers.
The number two is especially significant. That’s how many heart attacks my wife, Kerry, suffered since early Saturday morning, or the seventh day of the 47th week of the 10th month in 2009. The number 200 is also a key number, because that’s how fast Kerry’s heart was beating when she was saved from certain death by emergency-room doctors, who shocked her fluttering heart into a normal rhythm twice in three days using defibrillators each delivering about 600 volts of electricity. Four is the number of hospitals Kerry has transferred to. Seven is the number of tests she’s undergone to determine what’s wrong with her heart. Eleven is the number of doctors and cardiac specialists who’ve consulted on her case, which is very unusual. Fifteen is the total number of hours I slept in six days, shattering a personal record I previously set in college, and, I’d like to point out, in a much more enjoyable way.
If you add all those numbers up, I’m sure you’ll understand why I temporarily went off the grid, and I hope you’ll forgive me for neglecting you. I often thought about writing something to explain what was going on, even if it was brief, and I also considered reading what others are up to help take my mind off my own troubles, but simply couldn’t. My mind was too fogged with fear, anxiety and worry to make sense of words, which aren’t nearly as definitive as numbers.
Today, however, I feel a bit better—and a bit more capable–because Kerry’s situation is looking up.
Kerry will endure two more heart tests tomorrow. If the results confirm the doctors’ current theory about the congenital heart defect that caused her problems, they will perform two complicated procedures on her during open heart surgery sometime in the next three days. And then, they assure us, the odds are very good that she will recover and go on to lead a long and relatively normal life, if that’s possible being married to me.
I don’t like odds, of course. Odds are sets of numbers that trick you into believing chance and probability are definitive, when, in fact, each situation is as unique and as uncertain as your next heartbeat. I’m not a gambling man, and in cases like these, I prefer certainties. I desperately wish the surgeons would tell me that the results of Test 1 and 2 plus Open Heart Procedures 3 and 4 equal a perfect 10 for Kerry. But heart surgeons are more like artists than mathematicians. Their work, like the human heart itself, is a little mysterious and unpredictable.
God is also a little mysterious and unpredictable, but I’ve asked Him to intervene in our little drama on the off chance He’ll take an interest in Kerry’s case and help keep her alive. In the grand scheme of things, I realize there’s no reason why He should. I’ve read that about 155,000 people die every day, often tragically, and their places are quickly taken by 216,000 newborn babies. But I hope He’ll do this thing for us because I’m not sure how our family will survive if Kerry dies. More selfishly, I can’t imagine my life without her.
It’s almost impossible to explain why—words fail me in this matter at this moment—but consider the numbers that help define our lives.
Kerry and I started dating when we were 18 or 19 years old. We got married when we were 20 or 21. We were married for nearly 14 years when we adopted our first daughter, Lindy. We adopted her sister, Rudy, two years later, and our boys, Lance and Gabe, about four years after that. We’ve lived in five apartments, one condominium and three houses. We’ve owned five bicycles and nine cars. We both turned 50 this year, and in August, we celebrated our 29th anniversary and talked about saving up $5,000 to $10,000 to take a trip to Italy in five years once the kids are all grown and out of the house.
The Bible says God cares about numbers, from the number of sparrows that die every day to the number of hairs on each of our heads. So I trust He knows how much the kids and I depend on Kerry to help get us through every day. I trust He knows she’s my best friend. I trust He knows I love her with all my heart and have walked the line all these years because she’s mine, and I trust He knows she loves me, too, even if I don’t always listen to her as attentively or help her out with household chores as much as I should.
But will God hear my prayer?
If He does, will He save Kerry?
There’s no way to know, but I hope so, because although it’s estimated there are 6,615,852,000 human beings on the planet, and 3,291,805,000 of them are women, there is only one woman on Earth for me.
I realize it’s a very small and insignificant number. But to me, it’s the most important number in the world.