Unwrapping the gift

Now the initial shock is past and we’re working through the pain filled grimaces and planning the homecoming it’s worth considering the other side of this good news. The donated kidney came from somewhere, and while we don’t know anything about its previous owner I doubt they intended to pass it along at this particular time. There is a grieving bound up in the marvellous good fortune that has come our way, and it should be acknowledged.

Someone died and in doing so loosened the grip this rotten disease had on Janet. Quite probably there is a family in grief right now, and a wash of loss sweeping over friends and relatives, and we’re very unlikely to ever know who they are or be able to offer our sympathy and immeasurable thanks. I hope they went without pain and I bless their onward journey. May whichever gods they knew be with them.

Chances are they had signed an organ donation card, or lived in an area where donation was presumed by default. It’s a tough thing, considering your own death, or even that of a loved one. For many the idea of death is taboo, for others the aspect of reawakening at the final trump means they guard the integrity of their physical body jealously. For obvious reasons I’ve been on the deceased organ donation list for years, and these perceptions feel very strange.

The taboo of death, replete with intercessionaries and social and material screens to keep the very idea at bay, seems irrational. We were all born with an implicit and irrevocable death sentence! In order to keep a distance between us and the process, we employ funeral directors, build ornate and solidly concealing coffins, tell this children Grandma’s “gone away”. We treat death as a game in films and television, ensuring even in the most graphic demise that there’s not too much blood and gore, and that the screaming is for comic effect.

As for the reawakening, well ok fine, but are you aware of how much of your body you lose every day? Skin flakes, hair, we are constantly rebuilding ourselves and we are physically different people every time we wake up! To hold on to one point in time and consider “this is me” is daft. It’s always me. Every time. And we share our physical body with so many other creatures, where is the “me” in all of that? In the skin and bones? And if I’m to be reawakened (not going to happen, for so many reasons) I’d like my thirty year old body please…

I risk moving into philosophical rambling where I meant to stay with the donor and those who grieve for the loss. I hope they knew the person had willingly made the decision to gift their body after it was done with. I hope it gives them comfort, and pride, and honour. I would prefer everyone made the conscious decision to donate at death, even if they live in a place where donation is presumed (deemed consent).

I wonder what else was gifted in their demise? The other kidney, the heart and lungs, corneas and other bits and bobs. Every one a gift. Life changing. Have you given thought to organ donation? If you decided not to, why was that?

By the way.

It’s World Kidney Day on March 9th. That’s next Thursday.

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