Today has been an amazing day.
Some weeks ago, Live Life Then Give Life were invited to an annual service held by the British Organ Donor Society (BODY), who hold an event every September to commemorate the lives of organ donors and those recipients whose lives they saved.
In WImpole Park in Cambridgeshire, they have an avenue of trees, which people can dedicate to loved ones or anonymous donors and every year they dedicate a tree to an organisation as well. This year, they wanted to dedicate one to Live Life Then Give Life.
I went along with K and Emily to represent the charity and we all knew that it might be an emotional day. What none of us knew ahead of time was just how amazing a day it would be and what a wonderful feeling it was to be there.
The service is almost impossible to describe. In a tiny church in the grounds of Wimpole Hall, the Rector leads a service which frequently crosses boundaries between memorial, thanksgiving and celebration. There are donor families there, people who have lost loved one but took the immensly difficult decision to allow their organs to be used, and there are recipients, like Emily and I, and their families, there to celebrate and give thanks to the people they never knew and will never know who gave life where it was ebbing away.
There is a part of the service at which anyone may stand up and talk and tell their story, or simply say a quick thank you. To hear the contrast of stories between donor families and recipients is stark and unsettling, but at the same time it’s uplifting to see the strength that the donor families take in the knowledge that they’ve helped someone to carry on. The gratitude of the recipients shines through more brightly than any lightbulb every could and the strength that each side takes from the other makes it a wonderfully cathartic, if hugely emotional, experience.
As a charity, five of Live Life Then Give Life’s 5 trustees owe their lives to our amazing donors, so it was nothing short of an honour to be invited to the day and to receive a tree from the Society. As I stood at the front of the church to talk about us and what we do, to thank BODY for their gift and to thank our donors for what they have done for us, I got a strong sense of closure with my donor.
I know nothing of my donor, or their family, except that when my family were celebrating their greatest Christmas, they were enduring their worst. I know that I will never know my donor and I will never be able to visit their grave to thank them for what they’ve given me. But now there is a tree dedicated to Live Life Then Give Life and now that I know there is a place where donors are commemorated, I feel like I have a place to visit to give thanks, a place I can go to commune with my donor and let them know all that I’m doing to make the most of the new life they’ve given me.
Next year is BODY’s 25th anniversary as a charity and I sincerely hope that I can be there for the service again, but also that I can pack the church with donor families, recipients and their families and anyone touched by organ donation, because being in the presence of some of those amazing people yesterday was one of the most remarkable and moving experiences of my life.
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