Giving thanks

This coming January will mark 20 years since open heart surgery saved my life and presented me with more time on earth. A skilled surgeon and his team bypassed seven vessels in my chest. Yes, seven, a record number in one procedure for the University of North Carolina Hospitals. I clearly recall my thoughts as my chest was being shaved just before I was wheeled  into the operating room. “These could be the last moments of my life.” Why was I so calm?

Warnings came on the long, brisk walks in Russia. A colleague and I, in Ekaterinburg on an academic exchange project, walked several blocks together from our hotel to Ural State University, where we were to spend the day teaching and discussions with university faculty and with news executives in the community. My colleague, a tall, former basketball player, took long strides. At barely 5 feet 7, I labored to keep up. Our destination was the office of the dean of the journalism program, three floors up.  At the end of our walks, I would fall into a chair beside the dean’s desk and feel sharp pains in my chest, every time.

On my return home, I found that I couldn’t walk down our driveway to the mailbox without feeling that familiar tightness in my chest. When my bride found me lying across our bed with my toothbrush in my hand, exhausted from the simple act of brushing my teeth, we knew we had to take action.

Words can’t adequately express the exhilaration and gratitude I felt when I first awoke following the surgery. Once my head cleared, I vowed to give thanks every morning for that new day and to make the most of the time granted to me, and, believe me, I have had no difficulty sticking to that promise.

The season of Thanksgiving reminds us all to offer thanks for our blessings. For me, expressing thanks is a natural, everyday activity. We have no richer blessing than life itself, more time to experience all it offers and to make a difference while we are here.

Today’s words: comprise or compose? Comprise means to contain. The choir comprises nine singers. Comprise expresses the parts that make up something. It is never correct to write or say that the whole is comprised of the parts. Composed of is correct. Watch out for the “of.” It belongs with composed, not comprised.

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