One year ago, precise to the nearest hour (rounded up), I sat as I do now sitting up in the middle of the night while all about me are sleeping. That night, 366 days ago (leap year, before you correct me), I wrote:
“I can only hope that [this new low] marks the nadir of my fortunes and that things are all-the-way upwards from here.”
as part of this post. Little could I know that within 24 hours everything would have changed and that what I was writing then would prove to be so eminently prophetic.
I don’t know quite why I am unable to sleep this time – I know, thankfully, that it’s nothing to do with the intense physical struggle I was fighting a year ago, nor is it a concern about how imminent my death may prove to be – but I suspect that it’s the knowledge that a year ago today marked the point at which one person’s life ended and gave me the second chance I had craved.
I’ve never really struggled with the idea that for organ donation to be viable, the donor must be deceased – certainly in my case. But something about an approaching anniversary makes you re-assess things you take for granted. I suppose it’s why New Year brings so many resolutions.
More than that, though, I suspect it is the knowledge that over the last 12 months I’ve seen two friends lose their lives in the way I always imagined I’d lose mine and – just this week – a very close friend lost his 14-year-old son. Standing on their doorstep to offer our support and help in any way we could, their grief was over-whelming.
I have been much blessed in my life, not least in that I have never lost anyone of my immediate family at an age where I was aware of the pain it caused all those close to me. I’ve never fully appreciated the wrench, the true sickness inside, of losing a member of your family. Of course I remember my Nana – just barely – and my Granddad, but I have no concept of their deaths when I was 3- and 5-years-old. I remember more clearly the death of my Grandmother two years later, but only in as much as that Daddy was sad and I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral.
Never before have I touched – or been touched – by such heavy, all-enveloping grief that weighs on the family like a leaden cloud, which rains down tears of desperation and confusion without any seeming hope of the oft-fated silver lining. A grief which swallows people up and prevents them from seeing anything around them, or even in front of them.
It occurred to me, sometime after that doorstep encounter, that while my family and I were rushing to hospital a year ago this evening, another family were in the very first stages of just such an overwhelming feeling of loss and despair. And now, one year on, they must be thinking back to that fateful day and wondering if anything more could have been done.
As I’ve documented on here previously, I know nothing of my donor, nor their family. I can only imagine the circumstances under which they came to be in a position to save my life and mere conjecture is all I can muster towards how they dealt with it at the time.
As I prepare to celebrate the first of my second birthdays with a party on Thursday night, I am overcome with the thought of the loss someone has had to suffer for me to be here. All I want is to know that whoever my donor may have been, they are smiling down on me now and are proud of what I have achieved since they gave me a second chance.
I want to know that they believe I am worthy of the gift they have given me, that I have done my best to make the very most of the lungs they bequeathed to me and that if they could, they would be telling the ones they left behind that I am fit to carry on in their stead.
19 November will live forever in my mind as the day my donor died, quite separate from 20th November – the day my new life began. And I’m grateful to have the two separate days to honour – the one to mourn the passing of the person who saved my life and the second to give thanks for the life I’ve been given and to surround myself with my family and friends who make it all worthwhile and make me feel worthy.
I heard a quote from Nietsche on the radio today,
‘He that has a “why” to live can deal with almost any “how”‘
With the knowledge of the sacrifice that was made in my name and a determination to be the best I can be, “how” I live will never be an unconquerable hurdle, merely a method of honouring the “why”.
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