Organ Donation Creates a Living Legacy, but We All Leave a Mark
After writing last week about the loss of my friend, I realized that it was her birthday. That very day, she would have turned 30.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I think things happen at certain times for a reason. Donate Life Month inspired me to write about my friend and her gift of life. I was thinking about her legacy through organ donation, as well as my mom’s lung donor.
Due to the delicate nature of organs, and the requirements for them to be viable for transplant, few people can donate. It is a very unique and special legacy to leave behind. Yet, there is so much more that we can give to our loved ones that will outlive us. My friend had the power to unite people and make friends with anyone, and because of that, she lives on in those she loved.
To help write my column last week, I read through all the group messages sent among my rugby teammates as we waited for our friend’s brain injury to stabilize. I could feel the phantom ice in my veins reading the message from our team captain that she had been in an accident. I recalled the hopes hung on surgery after surgery and the moments where it seemed like she might pull through.
As I read, those days played out in the inevitable, dreamy, fast-forward way of memory until I was reading the messages about memorial arrangements. We wore costumes and made red lipstick kisses on one another’s cheeks — her signature move — and had too much beer and pizza, which I don’t think anyone paid for. We tried to celebrate her life through our pain.
Grief is a tricky thing.
Reliving those moments even now, seven years later, was painful. But being able to write about her death with the lens of how much organ transplant has affected my life was nice. It brought me peace to think about the recipients of my friend’s gift. I am happy for them, and proud, too. I wish they knew what a wild, friendly, vibrant person they carry within them.
While I was writing, I got a few notifications on Facebook. A few of my old college friends were talking about what kind of crazy shenanigans our friend would have forced us all to take part in to celebrate her 30th birthday. She was the life of the party and encouraged everyone to participate in games and activities at every social gathering. We laughed about how mad she would be to be turning 30 in lockdown.
Within minutes, it was decided that we would celebrate her birthday the best we could, from wherever we all live now. A few of us threw together a virtual meetup and invited the masses. We planned a few hours on Friday to connect and drink a few cold ones for our legendary friend. About 30 people logged on to Zoom and shared memories and treasured handmade gifts that our friend had given us. At least a dozen people had memorial tattoos. It was beautiful, and a much happier celebration than her memorial at the pub all those years ago.
When I said that we all have something to give that can outlive us, this is what I mean. We all have the power to make an impression on people. To inspire and unite. To uplift and support, to shelter when someone is in need. We can tell jokes that someone may laugh at in 100 years. Imagine a sense of humor so grand that a little kid will tell their friend “my great granny used to say …”
Whether or not we are fortunate enough to give the gift of life, the lasting legacy of organ donation, we all have a mark to make during our time. My friend’s legacy is her friendship and the way it still unites people.
We are so lucky that my mom is a living part of her donor’s legacy. I ache to know what my mom’s donor left behind for their loved ones.
How do their friends remember them? What did they do to celebrate their life at its end? What are the things that still make them smile to remember? When are the moments in which they say “I wish you were here”? Do they know how incredible this organic inheritance is? Does it give them comfort to know that someone lives because of the gift?
I hope so. If I never learn anything else about them, I would like to think that they are comforted by the gift of life, just as I have been with my lost friend.
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