You might think from the title of this post that I had a life-saving transplant and that would be a fair assumption. But I did not. I did not, but others did. Thanks to the selfless gift of my best friend and little brother, Andrew.
It is fitting that today I am going to write about being Brave as my Facebook memory was a post from 2011, a poem written by someone my mother knows about Organ and Tissue Donation.
To My Donor
You gave me life when the tide of my life was at ebb.
You gave all you had left to give
Life restored, I am forever grateful
Yet I know not who you are.
We are now a part of one another, brought together by tragedy
I shout my thanks from the silence of my mind, for I know not to whom I am speaking
I am you; you are me, as we share what you have given, unselfishly,
I cradle your gift, as sacred as life itself.
Still I know not whom to thank.
So I shall continue to whisper a prayer of thanks, until we meet again
In a more perfect place, whole again.
Joseph E. Kralicek
You see, back in 2009 I received a phone call from my sister, early one Sunday morning, while I was in South Carolina during graduate school, that changed my life forever. It was odd that my sister be calling that early int the morning. She calmly asked me if I was sitting down. I wasn’t, she told me to.
Then she delivered words that echo in my head every single day, “Andrew’s been in an accident.”
My baby brother. My best friend. The idiot who was always up for doing dumb stuff if we were bored. The goof ball who never met a stranger. The protector of his friends and family, the enforcer when it was necessary, was laying in a hospital bed, 900 miles away, in a coma.
Long story very, very short, he had hit his head in a pool and broken his neck. He would never recover. By the time my then fiancé and now husband arrived with my other sister who was living in North Carolina, my brother had been declared brain-dead and was only still “alive” because he was on ventilators and other machines keeping his bodily functions going.
When I walked into the hospital room where my giant of a brother lay, not fitting on the tiny hospital bed, I was enveloped by my father’s arms. Through sobs he told me he was gone.
He then explained that they had been approached about organ donation as he had registered as an organ donor with the DMV when he got his license.
Now, you see, my brother was 22 years old, 6’4″, broader shoulders, strong, football player… you couldn’t ask for a healthier more vibrant person. In my family’s eyes, there was no question, my brother would have wanted someone else to live on because of his death.
He was selfless and compassionate, and had the biggest heart of anyone we all knew. Which funny enough ended up literally being the case as his heart was too large for the first two people on the top of the transplant list, so it ended up going to the third person on the list.
Our family was called brave and strong so many times over the course of the next few weeks for our difficult decision to donate my brother’s organs and tissue after his death. But the truth is, while it was a hard time, watching the casket close on him for the last time, the easiest part was making that decision. Giving the gift of life to others is exactly what he would have wanted, and I can say that without the saccharine after-taste you get when you say something like that just to be nice.
The truth of the matter was that it might have been brave to give life to those waiting for life-saving transplants, but it saved our lives, too. Losing my brother blew my family’s core nucleus into a million pieces. We were broken, might as well have been dead ourselves, too. But having that one thing, the little tiny spark of light in such a dark time was all we needed to keep us together, to literally save our lives.
Knowing that my brother’s heart beats in someone else’s chest and that his lungs take breath on this earth, still. It makes all the difference in the world.
So, the last time we had to be brave in the face on insurmountable times, we might have come out battered and bent, we may have been broken for a while, but our bravery and my brother’s selfless gift of life became the glue that now holds us together and bonds us to each other and to this world around us.
My final thought is this: The most important thing you could ever do is register as an organ donor. Then talk about your wishes with your family. You never know when it is your time, and if your time is up, it will help make an impossible time for your loved ones, just a tiny tiny bit easier in the end.
If you are looking for more information about organ and tissue donation, please visit Donate Life America and get all the facts.