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Not what I was going to say

July 1, 2011

I got back from seeing Transformers 3 a few hours ago and wrote most of a post on it. Then I got word that my friends’ daughter, the one with cystic fibrosis, had died this afternoon. Suddenly, the words I had been writing, clever words about a clever summer action film became ashes in my mouth.

My friend is a good mother. She’s a great mother. She’s one of the people I have turned to for guidance in navigating the impossible intersection of motherhood and illness. And now her daughter is gone.

It’s wrong. It’s impossibly wrong. I want to run, and yell, and shake my fist at the sky in a meaningless gesture, meaningless because I know, as well as anyone can know, that life is capricious, and that fairness has nothing to do with it, and besides, what is my sorrow compared to my friend’s grief at the loss of her bright, talented, funny, beautiful daughter.

I feel powerless, because I am powerless, and I know in the fight against the Great Enemy, there is nothing I can do.

I know the feeling of frailty in the face of death because I have seen that face, often, staring back at me from the mirror. I know, and know well, the rituals we surround ourselves with to ease the burden of illness. Greeting cards. Casseroles. Phone calls and short visits, and gifts of cute t-shirts and funny books, and small stuffed animals, and they all help, but what they help with is the journey.  Not the destination, the one at the other end of the valley that lies in Death’s shadow — that can’t be changed.

Except that it can.

Not forever, but for a time. You can buy time. Not for yourself, nor for anyone you know, but for someone’s daughter, son, brother, sister, father, mother. Someone loved as well as my friend’s daughter, whose life was longer because someone, years ago, gave her their lungs. My friend’s daughter, the one who just died, also lived as the recipient of an organ transplant.

You can do that.

You can, for a time, defy death. You can stick a Post-it note in your wallet that says, “I’m an organ donor.” You can print out this blog post and write on the back of it, in ink, “I’m an organ donor,” sign your name, and stick the folded paper in your wallet. Tell your spouse. Tell your roommate. Tell your children. Tell your doctor. Write it in Sharpie on the back of your driver’s license, “I’m an organ donor.” And tell your family. Talk it over with them. Talk about it with your doctor if you have questions.

It’s the ultimate gift and the ultimate weapon against death. And it’s one I can never give, yet another thing cancer has robbed from me.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your family, to ease their grief should the unthinkable happen. Do it for me, because I cannot. And do it for my friend, to honor her daughter.

Do it to take a stand in the face of death, to say, “This far, and no farther.”

Do it for life.

From → Uncategorized

  1. Anne Slater permalink

    When words fail, actions can express (and absorb) your frustration:
    plant a tree, dig a well, be an organ donor.

  2. I think it’s one reason we planted trees in July. I’ll probably always think of our holly as Alex’s tree.

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