We spend every Christmas in Flagstaff, Arizona - as far away from the heat and humidity of Florida as possible. This holiday is the first time I've traveled post-transplant and the first time in over four years that I haven't had to make travel dialysis arrangements in advance.
I keep holding my breath as if (tomorrow, the next day, or the next) I'll have to be heading off to a treatment in the middle of vacation...
If you know me, you know I'm not a publicly emotional person. In fact, I guard my emotions very carefully, especially when it comes to death - because I've lost so many close to me in the last few years. I've lost too many friends and fellow kidney failure patients who were waiting for kidney transplants... that didn't come in time.
I was surprised by my own emotions, today. Taken completely by surprise.
A few days ago my friend told me about a little boy who lived in her apartment building who had passed away. She didn't know many exact details of his death, but assumed that his life-long disabilities had most likely contributed to his passing. Even though she didn't know his family well, she recalled for me her memory of the boy: always smiling, saying "Hi! Hello! How ah'ya?" to anyone who passed, while he sat enjoying the outdoors in his chair. I got an immediate picture in my mind of this child and understood the positive energy he must've spread to anyone who passed him.
Today was the little boy's memorial service. I offered to watch my friend's two kids (she has a 6.5 year-old daughter and a 6 week-old son) while she attended the service in support of the family and others touched by his life and death. While I spent several hours at her home with her kids having fun, the thought occurred to me more than once how wonderful gifts children really are, how lucky we are to be parents, and how difficult it must be to lose a child.
After the service, my friend came home and we packed the kids up so she could drop me off at my next destination. While we drove she described the boy's memorial - filled to the brim with children and decorated like a kids party - complete with a special play area just for kids during the service. The way she described it seemed to mean that the service not only focused on the boy who had passed, but on ALL the children who had known and loved him. She said she wished she'd known it would've been so happy and kid-friendly, because she would've brought her own children.
Then she showed me the memorial program. On the front was a picture of the little boy with his full name, the dates of birth/death and the popular nick-name "Papi" that everyone knew him by. He had an enormous smile in the picture, and again I felt as if his very positive energy drew me in. I flipped to the inside and began to read the obituary.
This is the part where I burst into tears. The tears came so fast they stung my eyes with sudden emotion. All because of this, the most important part of the obituary and maybe, of Papi's life:
"Continuous prayers are requested for the 5 children who received hope through his organ donation."
To know that these strangers, who have loved and untimely lost their beautiful child, made the undeniable difficult decision to save the lives of five other children, speaks more to my heart than I can find the words to express. I'm emotionally stunned and numb, even as I write this post with the tears still streaming down my cheeks.
I think this is the biggest, hardest, jagged pill-of-a-lesson human beings should try to strive to understand: If parents can grasp how to unselfishly give, even during their most anguished and grief-stricken moments, then humanity still has hope. If we could collectively identify with these parents, and with the other thousands of loved ones in this country every day who make similar decisions, then we just might have a chance to understand the meaning of life.
Papi and his parents gave us a gift: Not only in sharing Papi with the world and all his life touched, but in the decision to donate his organs.
Thank you, Papi's parents. From an organ recipient, to the parents of a boy to whom they gave life - twice.
Travel to or live in Vegas!