By The Columbia Chronicle

by Marcia E. Lazar

I believe in omens, even if I don’t know what they mean. Take the spectacle of a golden moon setting. I woke up before dawn, before the earliest light brightened the sky, opened the blinds and looked toward the northwest horizon. There, at the edge of a dark, monolithic high-rise, a golden slice of light appeared. I stared as it grew larger, redder and expanded into a copper-colored sphere that slipped gently downward. It was like watching a slow motion movie, a graceful dance, the full moon sinking. When its edge touched the horizon, it expanded horizontally and appeared elliptical as it drifted down and down and finally disappeared.

I have lived here for 15 years and never witnessed the moon setting in such a magical way. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west—sure. I had seen spectacular sunsets. I’ve watched in awe as the sun glowed hot red and touched the horizon. But that coppery moon, so subtle and elegant, it defied explanation. I’m not a superstitious person, but I’ve come to believe this phenomenon represents what can happen when a cold fact is embellished with something magnificent. It can become such a powerful force that it transcends reality.

A decade ago, I had witnessed these elements coming together and saving my husband’s life. In December 1999, Alan had a horrendous case of the flu. The virus coursed its way through his body and finally attacked his heart. A month later he was barely able to breathe and he went to the doctor, who immediately admitted him to the cardiac intensive care unit. His heart rate shot up to 200 beats per minute—no wonder he couldn’t breathe. Alan called me from the hospital and told me to come down and bring his toothbrush, razor and a robe.

When I arrived, I had the shock of my life. There was my strong, handsome husband looking strangely submissive, hooked up to an enormous bank of sci-fi machines. His doctor came into the room and checked the heart rate monitor. “It’ll take a while for the drugs to work,” he said. With a barely perceptible flick of his wrist, he motioned me to join him in the hall.  A deep frown creased his forehead as he cautioned me. “His condition is grave. It’s very, very serious,” he said. Then he explained what was going on in Alan’s heart. Honestly, I hadn’t realized how dangerous it was. “You don’t know if he’ll make it,” I said. I took a deep breath and waited for his response. He didn’t have to say a word. I knew the answer by the way he shrugged his shoulders and touched my arm.

Although the doctor never revealed the grim prognosis to Alan, we both knew we were battling for his life. Our first order was for him to maintain his strength, his self-confidence, his dignity. He wouldn’t become just another patient in the ICU, an invalid, a victim unable to fight (There’s something about the word “invalid.” It usually refers to one who is disabled, but it’s more. If someone’s an invalid, he’s literally invalid, illogical and worthless).  Nope, that was not to happen to my husband.  Not with me around.

We kissed every morning when I arrived and throughout the long days. We told each other how much we loved one another. We fantasized trips and what we wanted to do. We always looked forward—there were so many dreams to be lived. With these small acts of normalcy, Alan sustained the essence of his humanity. Still, there were the facts.  As one doctor explained, the electrical system that controlled Alan’s heart was out of whack. Five out of six doctors thought he wouldn’t make it. But with lots of luck, technology, drugs and the genius of medical professionals, Alan survived. Throughout the ordeal, he always had faith in himself and retained control of his destiny.  Ten years later, we maintain that those were the essential ingredients that pulled him through.  When his doctor gave me the grim prognosis, he didn’t take into account Alan’s drive, his belief in himself, the power of his will to live.

I believe in omens, even if I don’t know what they mean. But having written this story, I think that moon was an omen, a symbolic blending of fact and faith. It could have just been a natural phenomenon—just as the sun rises and sets every day, so does the moon. But sometimes, those risings and settings are so incredibly beautiful, so enchanting and remarkable that they temper the cold, hard facts of the solar system. The combination stimulates indescribable feelings that live deep in my core. Call it belief.  Call it soul. Call it spirit. Call it magic. I accept the mystery that fact and faith are linked—inextricably.