In its simplest form, “Heart’s Oratorio: One Woman’s Journey through Love, Death and Modern Medicine” falls into the category of “Narrative Medicine”. It could also be classified as a love story, as a spiritual biography, as a testament of devotion. I have chosen to call it a “Healing Journey,” recognizing that as its essential gesture, even as it calls into question how “healing” is defined. Whatever category/genre it fits into, my story is offered in the spirit of bringing hope.
I am compelled to share this extraordinary journey with others who face dire situations, whether chronic illness or dramatic life-changes. We have a need to share our stories—to give expression to our life experience, to inform, to inspire. In doing so, I write from the position of many creative nonfiction writers, that the personal is universal. Michel de Montaigne, considered the father of the essay, expressed this when he said, “Every man has within himself the entire human condition.” Every woman, too.
As “Oratorio” suggests, this heart story is composed of many voices, in accord with the heart itself. This multidimensionality manifests as structure, as fluidity, and as energy. Indeed, these are the ways in which the heart is objectively measured: the way it is formed (musculature), the way it circulates the blood (hemodynamics or blood flow), and the way it conducts electricity (pacing, rhythm).
This threefoldness correlates to the levels of story that sound through in these linked essays. At one phase in its evolution, the manuscript included an earmarking of what level of story/ heart was being sounded:
Myocardial (physical)—heart as structure, form. This voice speaks as outer information, facts, medical opinions, and what occurs in time. (“Cardiac Consultations” : the medical drama)
Circulatory (flowing)—heart as a dynamic, ever-changing meeting place, relational. This voice arises as feelings, emotions, resonance with others.
Electrophysiological (energetic)—heart as perceiver of archetype and spiritual dimensions. This voice is heard through intuition, vision, dream.
Ceremonial (communal heart)—heart as integrator of the triune aspects above: meeting with others (flowing) in spiritual awareness (energetic) to enact something together in the world (physical). This voice is expressed in devotional celebration.
Ancestral- (Genetic) Heart as carrier of the imprint of previous generations, future descendants.
The book, as it stands now, no longer carries little icons to alert the reader in the way a signature in a musical score indicates a key. It was distracting to employ such a device after all (although it provided a helpful scaffolding in the process) . It became artificial to isolate any one of these facets from the others. This is also in keeping with the heart: in unity may the interplay of these voices form, eventually, a harmonious whole.