On Sunday, November 7, 2010, I had the pleasure (sad pleasure, but meaningful nonetheless) to attend a donor memorial, presented by the good people who work for The Center for Donation and Transplant (CDT), here in Albany, NY. My friend, Jen, is an organ procurement specialist for CDT and was kind enough to ask me if I would be interested in joining her. My immediate response was, ‘Sure, I’ll go, will there be any cake served?” Because it’s all about the sugar, really.
So, on Sunday afternoon, I put on my dress-up ‘girly’ clothes and off we went. Mistake #1 was not asking enough questions about exactly what this event entailed. Mistake #2 was neglecting to tote a large box of Kleenex with me. All I remember Jen mentioning was that there was going to be a guest speaker representing the transplant program at Albany Medical Hospital. I was intrigued by this and knew that I would walk away learning something about organ transplants, so I was game. What Jen didn’t tell me was just how sad, touching and heart-wrenching this ceremony would be.
This memorial is an annual event that pays tribute to all those beautiful people who have lost their lives, and donated their organs. Family members and loved ones of the donors were there to represent them and remind us all just how special they were and how special they continue to be, by giving the gift of life to someone else. Jeffrey Orlowski, CEO for CDT gave a beautiful opening speech, followed by a reading given by the parents of a donor. This poem is called, "The Dash". I was so moved by these words that I felt I should share them with you all. As I’ve said before, I understand that organ donation is not for everyone, and I can appreciate this. It’s a very personal decision. I do believe though, that anyone that reads this poem will for even a moment, think twice about how precious our lives are.
by Linda Ellis
I read of a reverend who stood to speak
at the funeral of his friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth…
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard…
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at “dash mid-range.”)
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy’s being read
with your life’s actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?
See, I wasn’t kiddin’ ya, was I? Wow, talk about rippin’ your heart out. After I abused the hell out of a box of tissues, it was time to strike up the band for more grief and misery. Why not add to the despondency in the room by inviting a musical trio to share a dirge or two with the crowd as the family members were invited to come to the front of the room to announce the name of the donor, and light a candle in their honor? There were 42 families invited, so I only tore up 42 tissues in the second half of this somber ceremony. I don’t remember the last time I felt so emotionally exhausted and torn up. While I would never volunteer to subject myself to this afternoon of torture again, I will never forget the meaning and acknowledgement shown toward so many deceased people that have given a new lease on life to so many others.
This event was important to me because it reminded me how much the gift of an organ, cadaverous or living, means to someone who’s life is diminished without it. For those that can’t go forward with the decision to be a living kidney donor, please don’t forget that you can still donate life by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor upon your death. How wonderful to be able to let your memory live on in the body of someone else, long after you’re gone.
I never got my cake at the memorial service, but I did get the opportunity to be among so many others that can appreciate and honor the meaning of organ donation.
Until next time... register to be an organ donor today!