Wikipedia defines the heart as "a hollow muscle that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions. Gray's anatomy goes on to say "the rhythmical action of the heart is muscular in origin." But most of us probably don't think of the heart in this way. If we even think of it at all. That's because the heart goes on beating around 70 beats every minute of every day without any effort from us. Yet for something so unnoticed, it's role in our lives could not be any more important.
Yet it's still a muscle, one that can be weakened by a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy habits and strengthened through exercise and healthy living. A healthy heart is a happy heart. Except that the heart is more than just a blood pumper. It is a vital organ of emotional health too. One that just like the beating drum in our chests needs exercise and healthy habits to function optimally. After Wyatt and Eli's deaths my heart needed a break and so I tucked it away somewhere safe for a while. I needed to protect it and keep it from any more hurt because I just didn't know how much it could take.
I learned this last week that the human heart can take an awful lot. It can be poked and prodded, shocked and even endure having tiny pieces of it literally killed off and still keep beating. So too can the metaphorical heart. I have endured hearing that two of my children, while each in utero, would most certainly die before, during or shortly after their births. I have carried those little boys to term and watched each one die in my arms within hours of their birth. I have stood at a tiny bare grave site to bury my first child and then eight years later at my oldest son's grave site by my very own headstone to bury my second son at his feet.
I have also learned of the heart's incredible capacity for healing. Both physically and emotionally. At the age of 25, approximately one percent of the heart's muscle cells are replaced yearly, falling to one half of a percent by age 75 according to Dr. Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. What I can take away from this is that the heart really heals, inside and out. The heart that I had ten years ago is not the heart that I have today, neither one of them.