A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Taylor is a good kid.

No, I take that back.  Taylor is a really great kid.

He’s a good student.  A loving son.  A fun brother.  A lively and devoted friend.  An active participant in his church congregation.  A Boy Scout who is “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind . . .” and all that other stuff.  If you didn’t know him better you’d be tempted to say he is a really great kid with a good heart.

But if you said that, you’d be wrong.

Taylor has a bad heart.  His family knew that from the day he was born some 13 years ago.  His heart was so poorly formed that doctors at that time didn’t give him much hope of surviving more than a year or two.  So right from the very start, Taylor’s family learned to embrace and cherish every day with him.  The result has been a sweet, joyful family that is very close and very appreciative of each other and of each moment shared in their lives together.

While there have been some medical setbacks here and there along the way, Taylor’s 13-plus years here on this planet have been nothing short of miraculous.  He has been able to live a fairly normal life up until this point, and for that his family is profoundly grateful.

But today they’re praying for one more miracle.

Taylor’s bad heart is failing.  He’s been in the hospital for almost a week now, and his doctors intend to keep him there until a new heart can be found.  His parents have been at his bedside constantly, offering comfort and reassurance and answering his questions – including some questions no parent ever wants to have to consider seriously (“Dad, I don’t remember Grandpa Hyer’s voice.  If I die, and he meets me in heaven and talks to me, how will I know that it’s him?”).  The rest of us have been praying – for Taylor and for his parents.

For those of us who know and love Taylor, the prospect of a heart transplant is both thrilling and frightening.  It is thrilling to think that medical technology has progressed to the point that this life-changing surgery is almost commonplace – even for one as young as Taylor.  And it is thrilling to think of what a new, healthy heart could mean to this wonderful young man.  But it is frightening because . . . well, it’s a heart transplant.  Enough said.

The first time I tried to pray about this transplant, I had every intention of instructing God about how important this was for Taylor and how it needed to happen immediately (as if He wouldn’t already know about such things).  But as I knelt there, I found myself considering the implications of what I was saying.  A new heart for Taylor won’t really be a “new” heart, will it?  I mean, it’s not like they can go to the supply room and pull out a perfect, never-been-used heart for a 13-year-old.  Taylor’s “new” heart will actually be a used heart, which means that right now someone else is using the heart that will eventually be given to Taylor.

The “hows” and “whys” of that exchange are sort of mind-boggling, from a philosophical point of view.  The joy that Taylor’s family will feel at receiving a “new” heart will be countered by the sorrow another family will feel when that same heart stops beating within someone they love and cherish.  Will it be someone who has been terminally ill, for whom death will come as a welcomed relief?  Or will it be someone who has died suddenly, tragically, unexpectedly?  The options are troubling, to say the least.

And so I’m praying for Taylor and for his family.  But I ‘m also praying for the person who is now using Taylor’s “new” heart, and for that person’s family.  We can’t take away the sadness they are about to experience, but perhaps we can make some sense of it when that heart miraculously brings new life to a really great kid.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

For more ValueSpeak, please visit

E-mail Joseph at: 

Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through