As I sit in front of an immense pile of Black Friday ads from the newspaper, the front page peaked out from under the stack. Under all that wasted paper, a small photo gut-wrenched my heart right out of the holiday hustle/bliss anticipation that I was feeling and right into the “OMG, this time of year sucks” feeling that rears it’s ugly head.
The photo was of a hand holding a picture of a beautiful young woman with the byline “Out of tragedy, a life is saved.” I knew immediately what the story line was – a young woman unexpectedly died and her family donated her organs to help save the lives of others. I have read this story before many times…different people, same outcomes. And I have the same reaction every time – a flood of regret.
Jon was a beautiful, generous young man. He had checked that box on your driver’s license that allows for organ donation. In my shock that fateful morning, I couldn’t figure out why they worked so hard to keep him alive with such a fatal head trauma injury...why the Life-Flight…why all the tubes and injections? All I could see was that my beautiful boy was gone, so “No, you can not take any piece of him…why are you asking me that?” In my profound grief, I did not consent to his wishes. I never gave it another thought for years.
A few years ago, a dear friend lost her husband because there was no spare kidney to save his life. And that’s when it hit me. Hard. All I could think of was Jon’s perfect 18 year old kidneys, his strong heart, his healthy lungs, his beautiful brown eyes…all lost. A decision I made in agonizing grief, but in the clear light of day and 20/20 hindsight became my life’s biggest regret.
I immediately changed my own drivers license to allow for organ donation, but as the years click by, I’m not too sure what they will be able to use. They can have whatever they want. Organ donation often gets a bad rap these days, especially with all the negative press over fetal tissue donation, stem cell research, cloning, etc. My brain can’t even wrap itself around the morality or otherwise of these issues. My personal decision in 1991 was not one of politics or religion - it was one of a mother who wanted to hang onto what was my son.
Grief is strange...I love that it often moves to laughter in time. I confess that I secretly waited for some young woman to knock on my door with a baby in her arms telling me that it was Jon's. Can you imagine? Crazy dreams of grieving..all those what ifs. But how nice it would be to know, right now, this morning, that his heart was beating in another young man with his sense of humor and zeal for life? It would be beyond nice.
So go ahead.. check that box yourself. Give your consent. Give life.