Oh my heart...

by Rev. Marvin Harada.

The other night as I lay in bed about to fall asleep, it was very quiet and serene. I could feel my heart beating. I quietly listened to and sensed my beating heart. As I listened, I began to think about my heart. It has been beating for me for my whole life. I am nearly 59 years old. For more than 59 years it has been beating for me, day after day, week after week, year after year. It never gets a rest. It never gets a day off. If it even takes one minute off to rest, that’s the end of me. What an amazing organ it is, to work like that, tirelessly, for so long. Even before I was born, my heart has been beating for me. Did you know that during an average lifespan of 66 years, the human heart will beat 2.5 billion times?! Just think if you live to be 90, how many times your heart would have beaten.

The heart has valves and arteries, and all kinds of parts that is way too much for me to understand, but somehow they all work. A valve opens and closes, opens and closes, doing its job, over and over again. If it stays shut or stays open, that too is the end of me. Arteries deliver the blood, and the muscles of the heart keep pumping it. If they don’t do their job, day in and day out, then it’s also all over for me.

Everyday that I live, my heart is working for me, and I don’t even give it a moment’s notice. But when I stop and think about how much my heart has been working for me my whole life, even if it suddenly stopped, or decided to take a vacation, how could I ever be upset about it? I mean, it has been working for me for 58 years plus without even a moment’s rest. How could I ever ask for more? How could I ever get mad at it for “taking a little break.” I take breaks all the time. I get a good night’s sleep. I relax and watch tv. I occasionally get to play golf or go to Las Vegas. I get all kinds of rest and relaxation, but not my heart. Not for an instant.

How do you thank your heart for all that it has done for you your whole life? Do you take it out to dinner? Do you give it a gift? Do you write it a card? Of course, none of the above. We know that our heart will keep beating for us, regardless of whether we appreciate it or not. We know it will keep beating for us, whether we give it a gift or not. We know it will keep beating for us whether we are even a good person or not.

If I was a heart, I wouldn’t want to work like that for someone who was a jerk. I’d say, “Okay, you want to be that way about it, try this. I’m taking the day off.”

But our heart cannot take the day off, because if it stops, my life comes to an end, and so does my heart’s. I live, basically, as long as my heart wants to live, as long as it wants to work. If it is a strong and willing heart, hopefully I make it into my senior years.

In Japanese, there is the expression, okagesama, which is an expression that can be translated as “thanks to you..” Usually it is used to refer to people, like in the case of, okagesama, thanks to all of our members, I have a job as a minister. But recently I have been made to think, “Okagesama, my heart beats for me, tirelessly, without even a thank you, and I am able to live.” The other night when I laid in bed and listened to my heart beat, I got up and composed the following poem.

Oh, my heart....

From even before I was born,

You have been beating tireless for me.

Day after day, week after week, year after year.

For the past 58 years, I have been the recipient of your efforts.

You have never failed to continue to beat.

I wish I could give you a rest,

but even a short rest would be the end of me.

Within you too,

there are valves and arteries, veins and muscles,

all doing their jobs.

A valve opens and closes, always at the right time,

always without fail.

An artery keeps the flow of my blood

from you to the rest of me.

You too need the work of my lungs to give you oxygen,

for without it, you could not survive.

 At some point in time, you will tire,

and your life and mine will come to an end.

Whenever that occurs, I will not complain.

Whenever that occurs I will not ask for more of you.

How could I ask for more,

after all that you have already given me?

How could I ever possibly ask for more?

 But I hope that you will continue a little more,

for my selfish sake.

I hope that you will continue a little more,

so that I might be able to do my work a little longer.

I hope that you will continue a little more,

so that I might love those that I love a little longer.

I hope that you will continue a little more,

so that I might enjoy this life a little longer.

I know you cannot let me know when you will tire,

 and can go on no more.

And I really and truly don’t want to know.

But I do know that I will never be able to thank you,

nor will I ever be able to give you a gift,

for the gift of life that you have always given me.

Namuamidabutsu,

Rev. Marvin Harada