My heart seems not to know of its deficits, or it at least pretends not to know and goes on its merry way.

Here in our Stories of Grateful Living, we honor the voices of our community as we invite people to share their personal experiences with gratefulness. Join us in appreciating the explorations, reflections, and insights of fellow community members as we collectively learn what it means to live gratefully.

Ron’s Story

One of my little problems is my heart.

I am 76 years old, and I am disabled. I have multiple chronic degenerative ailments, including cancer and lupus, that affect my hips and my heart. I also have cardiomyopathy with an Ejection Fraction (EF) of 18 percent. EF measures heart pumping capacity of each heartbeat, and my EF is less than 30 percent of the capacity of a normal adult heart. It is my understanding that my heart must beat three times in order to push the same amount of blood to the body as a normal heart would do with just one beat. I am on my third installed ICD (defibrillator).

I try to show gratitude for the courage of my heart. My heart seems not to know of its deficits, or at least it pretends not to know and goes on its merry way.

Unfortunately I have problems with structured activities like meditating and writing in a gratitude journal every day. The focus and concentration of yoga and meditation has had the opposite effect — because of body pain, I could not relax.

I instead hatched a type of game called the “Gratitude Digit Game” to support my gratitude practice throughout the day. During one 24-hour day on a digital clock there are only 12 occurrences (less than 1 percent of the day) where all of the numbers are the same digit, such as 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, etc. When I see this, I stop for that minute — 60 seconds — and I give gratitude for what I feel at that moment. The unfiltered truth comes out! I think of this as kind of like a random call to prayer that happens every day wherever and whenever I might be. I love the randomness of this activity. Some days I miss seeing the digits; other days I see many of them. Also if I’m with someone when this happens I ask them to silently list their grateful points for the next 60 seconds.

Another practice I have is to end each email with the following salutation, which I truly feel:

“Gratefully — The inner gesture of receiving life as a Gift”

“Gracias a la Vida”(A famous well known song in Spanish)

I also show gratitude through music.

Music changed me — I had a spiritual awakening.

About 15 years ago when my health started to decline, I was given a guitar as a gift, which would become therapy — and this therapy was “The Gift.”

The author’s daughter, Suzanne with his son, Garth and granddaughter, Lolita in their “Grateful” shirts. (from R-L)

I had no previous musical experience. I had never (and still haven’t) had a guitar, voice, or music lesson.  As a matter of fact, I cannot formally read music. Because of my disabilities I could not walk or stand and sing at the same time, so the advantage and enjoyment of singing in a choir or with others was restricted.

I needed an alternative solo stage and format to produce my own music.

Playing guitar and singing on my own became that alternative form of music, exhilarating like catnip. Music changed me — I had a spiritual awakening.

Eventually and as a logical extension, it would be easy for me to record music. I had worked in the computer industry, so digitally recording, editing, and mixing music was easy after years of editing words and data.

The end-product-recording that I now produce is 100 percent made by me, with the exception of “Little Heart,” which has a heart monitor beep sound track added. With most of my recordings, I usually have two voice parts and three guitar parts. Both the male and female voice parts are mine, and the three guitar parts are done with two different guitars all played by me. These parts are recorded as tracks that can be manipulated. I record, edit, mix, and master my own recordings. I do the artwork and electronically send it out to be duplicated as CD’s.

I give my CDs away free to nursing homes and older clients who like to reminisce and hear music like the “standards” done as a cover from an original source. It seems that music has the charm to bring back many fond memories.

I try to embed my emotion in the songs that I sing. I also sing for another person who is not with us today but who had inspired me to sing. Part of this emotion is, of course, a feeling of gratitude.

I have several other ways I show gratitude outside of my music. For instance: 

Little Heart

When I am grateful for my heart, I focus on the bright side of life and experience positive results.

These positive results for the heart have been demonstrated by a 10-year study called GeneSTAR from Johns Hopkins University. This study focused on family members that have experienced premature cardiovascular disease. Their findings held that, of the people with a family history of cardiovascular disease, 13 percent were less likely to experience a heart attack if they practiced a positive attitude as compared to their negative attitude counterparts.

I cannot actually be sure of the genesis, but I developed the song “Little Heart” with gratitude and as therapy for my heart.

Years back, I had a cardiologist who tried to give me a realistic image of my heart after an angiogram (camera view) of my heart. He said in quite a pessimistic tone, “Your heart is like a broken toilet that keeps overflowing, flushing and running and not working.” Not very flattering for “Little Heart.”

But, when I sing my song “Little Heart,” this is the imagery I think about, and it makes me feel as though my heart is even more brave in its performance. Imagery is in the “mind’s eye.” I think it is important in developing a positive outlook.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. If the heart is beating or pumping 80 beats per minute then the total per day is 115,200 beats. That is a lot of work for a day. While listening to the song “Little Heart,” I suggest you affectionately cradle your heart and tap to the beat. Feel gratitude for what this amazing and courageous organ is doing for you.

Have a heart-to-heart with your heart!

I hope you enjoy this recording of “Little Heart.”

We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”


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Stories of Grateful Living
Ron Smith

Ron Smith

About the author

Ron Smith enjoys discovering and developing creative ways to practice, express, and share gratitude.