There are moments in life that define who we are -- moments that test our character and our faith. That moment for me came just before sunrise – on May 17, 2005 in Sacramento, California.
Just a few weeks before I was listening to a doctor explain the cause of my persistent cough. I thought I had a pesky case of bronchitis.
“Todd, you’ve got a big heart,” the doctor told me.
I smiled and thanked him for the kind words.
“I appreciate that,” I replied. “I go to church, try to help my neighbors…”
But doing good deeds was not the diagnosis he delivered. It was much more ominous.
My 37-year-old aortic valve had worn itself out. My heart was enlarged. I would need open heart surgery.
So like any good reporter I pulled out my day planner and suggested that I could probably have the surgery in the early fall.
By that time, the doctor told me, I would be dead.
I was living life at 100-miles-an-hour and suddenly I slammed into a wall – coming face to face with mortality.
So there I was – on May 17th – my affairs in order – waiting for a concoction of legal narcotics to take me to a faraway place.
I still remember the silent prayer I mumbled as I began to fall into a deep sleep: “Lord, please don’t let me die.”
I don’t remember much about the surgery. I’ve been told the surgical team was apparently fond of Swedish pop music. An ABBA song was playing through the sound system as they popped me open like a Thanksgiving turkey.
The surgeon carved out my faulty aortic valve and replaced it with a shiny new mechanical version – one that rhythmically clicked like a clock as blooded flows through my heart.
My new heart valve took a bit of getting used to. For the first few months – I’d wake up in a cold sweat – thinking Morley Safer from “60 Minutes” was in my bedroom.
And in 2007 -- when I was embedded with the Obama campaign -- I had to explain to wary Secret Service agents why the “Fox guy” was ticking.
Confucius once said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That’s not to say I haven’t encountered some rough patches along the way.
I suffered a few setbacks – a stroke in 2009 and more poking and prodding than I care to remember. And just the other day, I suffered a flashback in the produce aisle when “Dancing Queen” warbled out of the grocery store’s sound system.
But God’s mercies are new every morning – every single morning. And the good days far outnumber the bad.
Since that day, I’ve reported from the White House and Wall Street. I’ve traveled to every state in the nation. I’ve written four books. I’ve even gotten hugged by Miss Paula Deen.
And I finished not one – but two New York City Marathons. I was passed by two Italian guys smoking cigarettes and a one-legged man – but by golly – I crossed the finish line.
There was a song we used to sing a long time ago in Sunday school -- "Showers of Blessings."
"Showers of blessings. Showers of blessings we need -- Mercy drops round us are falling but for the showers we plead."
Back on May 17, 2005 the Good Lord saw fit to shower me with blessings -- a gully washer of blessings. And I'm still blessed beyond measure -- eleven years and counting.