A few weeks ago, in the course of my so-called routine annual physical–though nothing about my health has ever been routine–my doctor detected a bruit–a too-loud perfusion of blood coursing through my abdominal artery. I asked why; there could be an aneurism, he said. So? I can be fairly phlegmatic about these things. It could hemorrhage, he said a bit impatiently. Would there be help? I asked. There wouldn’t be time! he said. He was becoming quite emphatic; I was becoming a little defensive.
It was hardly my fault, after all. I eat inordinately sensibly, weigh under 110 at 5′-nearly 6″; okay, my cholesterol is 300 but lots of that is HDL, the good kind–and I have, notwithstanding a newly noisy artery, a healthy heart–which, incidentally, according to my doctor, is the typical profile among his hyperlipidemia patients: petite, thin women with low-to-normal blood pressure, and no cardiovascular disease. I try to grin like a typecast super-model for perfect coronary health.
So what do we do now? I ask. He calls to make my appointment for an abdominal ultrasound. I eat a few licorice jelly beans from a bowl at his desk while he is on the phone; his nurse packs the rest up for me to take home. No one in the office likes licorice.
I really wasn’t worried about this, and there was, as I somehow knew, no reason to be. The ultrasound was perfectly normal. Sometimes a thundering artery is just a thundering artery. I thanked God for his mercy; I have known so much of it. So very much.
But while I didn’t actually worry, I did reflect on the possibility of a condition that could actually mean sudden death. (In common parlance, of course, it’s called “life;” but I was thinking about whether it was responsible to drive with a known any-minute condition.) It seemed a peaceful prospect, really. I have no entitlement, after all, to any certain number of years of earthly life. Then I remembered there was arterial surgery for these things and I stopped worrying about the potential inconvenience to the public a spontaneous arterial blow-out might cause.
Instead, I was given a much lovelier thought: one to reserve for an unknown time. Perhaps the difference between life and death is really just a change in the light. . . like the rainbow, that symbolizes our ultimate reconciliation. . . .