So sad this afternoon peeps, over the events of today. I spent occasional weekends in the simple town of Sandy Hook CT many times in my 20's. Beautiful little New England town.
We cannot begin to understand how this could take place. This is much more than a gun question. This shooter did not gain access to guns and become crazed; he was crazed and gained access to guns.
What can we all do?
Once upon a time the young man who shot so many today was a kindergartener himself. I wonder what happened to him along the way. As a society, did we miss something? Was there something we could have done differently? Were there signs we should have noticed as he grew, signs that he was different or distressed and needed extra care? Was there a neighbor, or a parent of a friend, or a coach on a team that noticed something was "off" for this growing boy but squashed the feeling and forgot it? Did his parents need help dealing with him? Did they need help on how to parent?
If he did get lots of help and interventions, let's look at them critically. If he was on medication, let's seriously look at side effects and follow up.
Right now, all we can do is feel the grief. Then in honor of those lost, let's take a bounce from it. What do we want our world to be like? Let us be that world. In our tiny little lives, lets be the best we can be. Maybe we can love all children. Support all children. Reach out to all children. Donate to causes that help children. Support Planned Parenthood that helps people determine when they are ready to have children. Be a big brother or big sister. Set the best example for our own children. Set the best example for everyone else's children. Maybe we can all be a little bit better, a little bit kinder, a little bit more careful in what we say. "This monster who shot 20 children" (just heard on the news) was not always the monster. I am not at all defending him. I just want to make sure if we could have done anything to stop this years ago, we start doing it. Each and every one of us in our own little corners of the world.
“My friend donated her son’s organs and would like to know who his organs went to - how can she find out - she is still so devastated by his sudden loss and worries whether she did the right thing donating his organs - he did not specify he wanted to - he died suddenly, a young man, just a few years ago.”
Dearest, most generous Mamma;
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beautiful boy. I can only try to imagine how his loss has impacted you, and how it must still feel, carrying on without him for several years. There are no real words for this, I think. I want to know his name so I can speak it out loud. I want to hear how he was when he was little, and how he changed as he grew. I wonder what you most loved about him. How he was a challenge to you. What his favorite food was. Did he have a favorite book. What was the first movie he saw. I know these details live in your heart and they probably do not get much chance to be spoken. That is a part of loss, I think; people stop asking about a very deep, sacred part of our hearts.
It might have been the worst day of your life, the day you lost him. The worst day. A day you were living a tragedy. And yet on that day, filled with foreign words and lights and sounds and the horror of the sudden loss of someone young, one of the dearest to you in this world- on that day, there was something about you, and something about your dear son, that allowed you to think of helping others. That fact shines so very bright to me about the two of you.
Mamma, at your worst moment, you and your boy gave the world your best. Not everyone can meet the world with such generosity. I think your generosity together at a devastating time is the brightest star in the sky of your life together. It was every ounce of what we call heroic. You saved lives when your son’s life was ended. You gave what you could not have. Wow.
We sometimes lose sight of the significance of life saving when it comes by way of organ donation. Let me frame this life saving in a new way, using current news. In France there was a little boy who was dangling from a balcony six stories up. “Man scales building to save dangling child” will bring you the video on the web. If we watch that video we see a man who put everything on the line to save the life of another. If your son saved one life, he is this heroic. Chances are, your son at his age saved more lives than one. For every life your son saved, picture him scaling that wall to save a scared, waiting person who is going to die if your son does not reach them. Please put your son’s life-saving in every life saving event you hear about. You and your son saved lives as if he had pulled two people out of a burning building. Pulled three people out of icy water. Pulled four people out of a crashed airplane. That heroic.
In all my years working with transplant patients and donor families, I found this to be true. Some recipients can find the words to say “thank you.” Other recipients will struggle as they start to write something and then worry it is not good enough. It is hard for them to convey the depth of the gratitude they feel. They may think of their donor and donor family every day, even pray for them, and still you might not hear anything. Please hold the thought: “My son and I are being loved and honored every day by the people we saved. Every day, their families and friends are grateful for the gift of life.” I know this to be so very true! Let your heart feel that appreciation and respect every day.
Please contact the donation organization that worked with you that day those years ago and speak to their family support staff. You can ask for an update on the health of the recipients. Do not be afraid to talk to them about some of your sadness, too. They will understand. If you have any specific questions about your son’s case, no question is an improper question. We would want you to have ease and a solid understanding, so that nothing worries you. If you have some fears about that day, call and ask. Action conquers fear.
You will probably never know the people your son saved. But you can meet someone that was saved by a transplant. Transplant recipients generally love all donor families. Find out how you can hear a recipient speak. Maybe you could attend the next transplant games so you could swim in a sea of love for donor families for a few days. I so want you to feel honored, and supported. You are part of a family of people that have saved lives. This family has walked in your very shoes. If you have never spent time with this family I would think it would feel good. I urge you to try it, even if you are shy.
With all my heart I hope you will be able to feel the power of what you did. With all my heart I believe your son is safe, and he keeps an eye on his recipients and you. With all my heart I think he wants you to feel better.
Maybe he put the idea in your head to talk to your friend about your sadness, so she could ask me your questions, so I could write this to you. For him.
In Philadelphia in 2014 a few attractive looking educated 20 something's had dinner and then while walking on to the next fun thing allegedly attacked and beat a gay couple because they were a gay couple. Wow. I mean, really. This generation? I mean, how does that hatred exist. And it was pretty astonishing ... we are the city of brotherly love! These folks attended the Catholic School just miles away from where I live. Two men and one woman were arrested.
I guess being a woman I was most struck by her participation. The woman, in her mid 20's and blonde and pretty... I just wonder what was on her mind. Had she ever really thought about who she was and what her values were, I wonder. What did she stand for? Why had she chosen this hatred for herself? Same for the men. It is tragic for the men that were attacked but also for our neighborhood and world that here were a dozen or so young adults who were so thought less. Even if they did not attack they watched and did not try to stop what was happening. Had no inner code that caused them to step forward even if they risked injury themselves.
I see people with this code all the time through my work talking to grieving families about organ donation? Families that have blessed and saved the lives of others are all colors and religions and ages and education levels. Their commonality is an inner code of wisdom about what they stand for. I see the very best most loving and beautiful people all the time and they have all changed me and caused me to be a better person. Oh, there is so much hope and goodness in the world.
I say to all those who have little ones at home. Day to day you are shaping your child's values. Every day they are sponges. So live your best and most loving life and treat them like the wisest little sages you ever met. Discuss things with them. Get their opinions on things. And very early, let them make decisions for themselves. Ask them what they think they should do before you give advice. You are simply providing them with a loving nest to grow in. They have to be able to think for themselves and know who they are and that comes with being trusted to make decisions at an early age. Respect them. Speak to them as politely as you would your most treasured friend. See them as wise and knowing. See the best in them. Talk about their goodness to others. They are here to teach you, truly.
I am glad I did not have a cell phone to distract me when my boys were little. I am glad we did not have a TV in the car so that my 4 year old son was actually looking out the window and noticing and thinking as we drove one day. So he saw the people picketing and he asked me what the signs said. Then he wanted to know what abortion was, and so I told him, and once he heard the definition I asked him what he thought about it... and my 4 year old taught me some things from his purity of thought. Those times are the sacred times of parenting. Is there enough time and quiet in your life, enough space, for times like these? I so hope there is.
“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family. Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
So today, maybe we can build character. Cook together. Ride in he car together without the radio. Have dinner together. Talk. What did you see at school/work today that made you happy? Did you see anyone do anything you thought was nice? Can you think of something we could do to surprise Grandma? This happened in the world today, what do you think about it? What do you think you would do if you were there?
Do you know what my greatest gift right now is? That my three sons are three of the loveliest people I know. That other people tell me the same thing, how wonderful they are. I never tire of it. They are adults, and out in the world, and making the world a better place. Do everything you can right now, to treat yourself to that.
The Moon a Year Ago, and Still She Shines
Yesterday I was moving through moon beams. I have been spending wonderful time each month with my parents in Massachusetts. I wake up at 4AM when I make the trip, leaving 20 mins later. Yesterday from my moms walkway, the sky had scattered clouds while stars twinkled through. Orion was in front of me from where I stood. The air was fresh and the degrees were comforting. I took a minute to appreciate the perfection.
Within 20 minutes I had my travel coffee and my little ancient dog was already asleep on the front seat floor. I consider anyone on the road at that hour friends of mine. Co-travelers, watching out for each other. There are fewer of them after the route 2 exit, as people get off and head toward Boston.
Route 84 in Connecticut brought me a new companion. The magnificent harvest moon! For she hung right above the road I was on for miles! She was looking directly at me! She was gorgeous! A few flocks of geese flew over the highway just ahead of me, and she shone on all of us. Sliding my window open I could hear them honk! It was such a display! I was driving through a Disney movie. I was the heroine, finding her way, claiming my space in this world.
And then slowly the sun eased its way in. The perfect distance from us. The day started with its cheeks blushing, a gorgeous pink, a faint blue. A shy start to the day we label October 5th, 2017.
Through all this, the music shuffled in my phone in perfect synchronicity, playing through my car speakers.
This was all readily available to anyone who happened to catch it. Who are we to deserve this? Who are we to be so blessed?
Gifts all around, when we choose to see them.
The pain woke me up about 3 AM, and because I was already the mother of a darling boy I knew right away that it was labor pain. As it faded I lay on my side in the dark and got my bearings. I was 12 weeks pregnant.
Every few minutes it would come again, stronger, and at some point I needed to focus and breath so that I would stay “over” the pain. If you get distracted, the wave of it can overcome you and you lose control; you whimper and moan. My firstborn had been a natural birth, and this felt familiar; this pain, this breathing, and this ability to stay “over.”
I was silent except for my breath. I claimed this as my experience. I did not wake anyone, or call anyone. I did not want to explain to anyone what I knew was happening. I was with myself for this miniature birth. In that moment, and for many years, there were no words from me for this.
Time passed, contractions came and went, and my focus and breathing held me. I felt the urge to get up and go to the bathroom. I took a few steps, and I could feel that something smooth was sliding through me. As I reached the bathroom I could feel the smoothness about to exit my body, and I reached my cupped hand below and caught the miracle.
In my hand was the fluid filled sac, intact and whole and clear. And floating inside was my little fetus, with tiny arms and hands, itty-bitty legs with feet and maybe the hint of toes, and a tiny “large” head with dark eyes. I held a little embryonic world in the palm of my hand.
I breathed. I sat on the toilet and waited a bit. Nothing more happened. There was no blood. The fetal connection to life, the placenta rich with its gifts of blood and oxygen, remained inside me.
I crept down stairs in the dark, cradling the miracle tenderly, close to my body, and in the palm of one hand. I am logical in emergencies. I knew that the sun would rise and my doctors’ office would open and that I would drive over there with the miracle and I would ask how it all came to be.
In my kitchen I was thinking cold was needed for preservation, but it seemed wrong to put the miracle in the refrigerator. One handed, I carefully chose a little glass Pyrex custard type dish and placed it on the counter. I chose a bigger yellow Tupperware container and set that down. As my left hand cradled the miracle I put ice cubes in the Tupperware with my right. The ice cubes clunked into the plastic bowl, sounding loud in those hours before daylight came. I then positioned the little glass bowl into the ice.
I sat in the blue plaid wing chair I had gotten for my birthday. Next to me was our basket of children’s books. I sat and held the miracle for a time in its first and only cradle, the warm hand of its own momma. I marveled at it. I said a prayer to its sweet little lost promise. It was at this moment that more emotion came. Later it was hard to put the miracle in to the glass dish, because I knew I would most likely not hold the miracle again.
The sun rose and my husband woke and I told him we lost the baby.
“Maybe you are wrong,” he offered supportively. “You can go to the doctors and see.”
“No, “ I said. “This is for sure.”
I brought him downstairs and took him to the quiet corner of the kitchen where I had placed the yellow Tupperware, the little glass Pyrex dish, the ice, and the miracle.
Our toddler son woke up, and the doctors’ office opened.
“Maybe you are wrong,” the nurse offered supportively. “Come over now and the doctor can see. ”
“No,” I said. “This is for sure.”
I had no more words for it.
I snapped the bright yellow cover into place, instinctively burping the extra air out of the container to seal in the freshness.
This is only one woman’s story about a few moments in her own life. These individual experiences are so easily dismissed by others at times. Why do you suppose that is?
I drove to my obstetricians office with my miracle next to me on the front seat. This was a tiny office with one physician so a very intimate place that knew you when you walked in. I walked into the office carrying my sealed yellow Tupperware container.
I opened it at the desk.
“Oh,” the nurse sighed. I have never seen anything like this. Now I know what you meant.” The nurse gave me a hug. She went and got the doctor.
“Oh my goodness,” the doctor said. “In all my years I have never seen anything like this.” He would retire after I had my next baby, so he already had lots of years in, and yet he looked and looked.
“Everything looks perfect. I think the fetus is about 8 weeks along. Were you sick a few weeks ago?” He was kind and spoke gently, just the way you would want someone to be.
We had been. We had been vomiting for 24 hours, 4 weeks earlier.
He explained what he thought had happened. At certain points in development a fetus is vulnerable. Our miracle had not survived our catching that virus at 8 weeks. Mother Nature knew, and there we were, catching up with it all 4 weeks later.
The doctor placed the miracle in a proper medical container and sent it to hospital pathology to test his guess and make sure that we would not miss anything that would be important for us to know.
We waited to see if my body would pass the placenta but my body held on to it. I was scheduled for a D&C (Dilatation and Curettage) at the local hospital to remove the amazing network of fetal support my body had created. As a part time emergency room nurse, I called out sick that day and the next, to take the day after the procedure off, explaining what my experience had been. “Why are you calling out sick?” my nurse manager asked. “It is like having an abortion. People have abortions and do not get to take days off.”
“I want the day off. I lost my baby.” My voice shook. I felt instant anger but this was all I could muster at the time. Why would someone be so cruel?
Her heart heard me and her voice shifted.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Take the time, and I hope all goes well.”
This is only one woman’s story about a few moments in her own life. These individual experiences are so easily dismissed by others at times. Why do you suppose that is?
Weeks went by and I thought about the baby we had thought we were having. It was a promise that was lost. Had we lost a boy or a girl?
Had we lost a second son?
Had we lost a daughter?
We had good insurance, but bills arrived in the mail. We received a bill from pathology. We did not receive any report. We paid the balance for the pathology testing that had taken place.
More weeks went by and I still thought about the baby, the promise. Had we lost a daughter or a son? I wondered. Had we lost a boy or lost a girl? We were waiting several months before we could try to get pregnant again. In this time, I wondered.
One day, something occurred to me, and I wondered if they could tell.
Home alone, I took out the bill that had all the medical record information and I called that Pathology Department.
“Can you look something up for me? Months ago, I had a miscarriage. But I passed the entire little perfect fetus, still in the sac. I have been wondering if it was far enough along that they could tell if it was a boy or a girl? I mean I know it does not really matter…. But if they could tell, if it is documented, I would really like to know. Could you look up the report for me?”
The woman was helpful once I could give her my medical record number and dates for the procedure and enough of my information that she was confident that I was “I.” She put me on hold.
About 5 minutes later she came back on. This was almost 30 years ago now; she had to pull a paper file.
“Okay, I found it. Lets see….”
I could picture her scanning through a document.
“It just says ‘Indeterminate tissue.’ ”
“That’s all? I mean… it was not indeterminate tissue. It was an actual little fetus in a sac.”
“I’m sorry. That is all it says,” she said.
I had no words for this.
I shared this with no one.
I did not want anyone else to be upset.
I tortured myself with this fact.
I pictured my miracle in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf of specimens in a lab.
I pictured my miracle in a jar on a bookcase behind the desk of some doctor.
I felt that we had been violated in some way.
I knew if I had known this would be the outcome, I would have buried my own little sweet promise in a pretty box in a pretty garden. I would have said beautiful momma prayers.
You could not have seen that specimen, and labeled it “Indeterminate Tissue,” unless you wanted to keep it, the voice in my head would say. Unless you were doing it deliberately, because it was actually an amazing little miracle you do not hold in your hand every day. I could understand it might be a specimen worth saving.
We should have been asked, if that is what happened. It should have been our decision.
I was sad for my little promise. I felt that I let my little promise down.
I would be sad when it came to my mind, for a long time. I would ask “Why?”
It was my own, silent burden. Was it a bad thing? Should I be upset? I would leave the earth and my little promise would be alone in a jar, forever preserved. I wanted to know “something,” I was not even sure what it was I was asking. I longed for a greater understanding. For years I longed for what I did not “know.” We are told we can pray about things, seek answers, aren’t we. I asked to understand whenever I felt the upset reach for me. My heart asked, my mind asked; for meaning, for the intention of it all.
Time went by, and time heals, and sometimes I still wondered. Another darling baby boy was conceived and born.
We were driving past the County Courthouse one day and my wise oldest son, now four years old, saw something unusual going on through the car window. There were maybe fifteen or twenty people outside the county courthouse with signs. “What are all the signs for, Momma? What do they say?”
Oh, boy. All the signs were about abortion. He was a wise and thoughtful child. I thought a few minutes, and then I tried to explain.
“People have strong feelings about something called abortion. Sometimes a tiny little baby seed will start to grow, and the woman will not be ready to have a baby. She might have big worries about being able to take care of it. So while it is still a baby seed, a doctor can take it out so it will not grow. Some of these people think women should not be able to do that. Some of them think that everyone should just let the women and the doctor decide.”
All was quiet in the back seat as we drove slowly past the crowded sidewalk.
“What are you thinking?” I asked him.
“I think it is sad it does not get to be a baby,” he said.
In March of this year a little house finch laid three pretty eggs in a nest on our porch. The mother and father were very active with the nest. Three weeks later,
I found a tiny little dead bird on the porch. It barely had feathers. Its holy little body reminded me of the holy little body I had birthed, so long ago.
Even the simple little bird was such a magnificent little thing, its yellow beak and tiny head with little “ear gills” visible on the sides. Little stick legs. Just a dear little thing. I picked it up in a tissue, and actually took a picture to show my second husband. I got my trowel and dug a little hole in front of our house. Wrapping it in the tissue, I placed it in the hole and covered it with dirt and said a little blessing. The structure that carries life is amazing. And the essence of this little bird continuing on…. Yes, that is amazing, too.
And that is what I wanted to share; my knowing of the “continuing on” of things. Maybe there are hearts that need to read this. Maybe there are hearts, like mine, that are asking to know. These words are only looking for those hearts.
For I did receive answers. Knock and the door shall be opened. Seek and ye shall find.
Remember this moment, what I wrote earlier?
I called out sick that day and the next, to take the day after the procedure off, explaining what my experience had been. “Why are you calling out sick?” my nurse manager asked. “It is like having an abortion. People have abortions and do not get to take days off.”
I thought about her initial response, often, for years. In my head, I asked why she could have been so cruel.
One day, on a day that I was feeling wonderful, I just knew these words, about the nurse I had labeled as cruel.
There are always other things we might consider.
She might have had to have an abortion herself, and that decision was still upsetting. She might have wanted to take time off, but could not, because there are requests that are not socially accepted.
“How could she need a day off? She CHOSE this,” people might think they should think.
There are some requests you do not think you deserve to make.
It was a loss to her, a loss she felt she could not claim.
Whatever it was, she had not gotten support when she needed it and so she found it hard to give it. Just love her anyway.
How can anyone think choosing an abortion is easy?
Consider how hard it is, and that there are always things you do not know.
I was sad for my little promise. I felt that I let my little promise down.
I would leave the earth and my little promise would be alone in a jar, forever preserved. I wanted to know “something,” I was not even sure what it was I was asking. I longed for a greater understanding. For years I longed for what I did not “know.” We are told we can pray about things, seek answers, aren’t we. I asked to understand whenever I felt the upset reach for me. My heart asked, my mind asked; for meaning, for the intention of it all.
I thought about this grievance at random times in my head for years.
One day, on a day that I was feeling wonderful, I just knew these words.
There are always other things we might consider.
You have cried out, “Did we lose a son or a daughter? Did we lose a boy or a girl?”
Yes, It would be sad if it did not get to be a baby.
Nothing is lost. Do you think that any promise of life is ever lost? Do you think that each has only one chance? I created all this. Why would I create such loss?
Why would I let any sparkle of creation go unseen? It is all eternal and never ending. That is the promise. It is not complete without the individual sparkles of light. I love that one, and that one, and that one! How could I not have it become? You are such limited thinkers sometimes. Consider nature, for I remind you everywhere of limitlessness.
Your miracle, if it is in a jar, or if it is not, is still a miracle. It was a living miracle of opportunity. A miracle of cells and design and structure and differentiation and promise. It is still a miracle, even tiny, even though it did not continue its growth and come into life through breath. The sparkle stayed with me, where it waited for another chance, another turn, another car, another journey. Or it waited for you to be ready and is one of your next children. It does not matter. Feel the ease of knowing life is never, never lost.
The crosses in front of the church are set out with such good intention. They are set out with love and respect and deep grief for what is considered to be lost, each one representing 100 or 1000 losses. And yet there are no losses. They are never lost. Until the first breath, they are wholly my responsibility. Until the first breath, they are Holy, my responsibility. With the first inspiration, they are in your human care. At inspiration. That is my inspiration. Dear hearts that fight for this, have ease. You are carrying something you need not carry. Breathe. They were not lost. They were, or are, with me. You need not fight for them. The promised gift of them has already come or is coming. Take this in to your hearts. Feel the truth of it.
The women that carry the burden of a difficult decision, for days or for years or for a lifetime… have ease. You simply did not take a chance in that moment. Your chance stayed with me. Our chance did not lose its chance. Your chance took another journey. Your chance may have waited for you at a different time, be a child you had later. Or your chance may live next door. Your chance may be on the other side of the world, in a poor little hut, taking a chance. Dear hearts that mourn and think they took a life have ease. Breathe. You did not and do not have the power to take that life from being. They were, or are, with me. If you carry guilt for making the best decision you could with what you knew, know the guilt is of no value. Know that guilt is never anything I am requiring. The promised gift of them has already come or is coming.
Take this in to your hearts. Feel the truth of it.
These individual experiences are so discounted by others at times. Why do you suppose that is?
This is only my story.
I offer it, just in case you want to take it into your own heart and feel the truth of it.
Things are so hard sometimes, and there are always things we do not know. There are always other things we might consider.
Breathe, fellow women, breathe. Breathe and focus.
Back when I was a new first bride, after I moved to Pennsylvania but before I had any children, I got this amazing sales support job as a nurse. I was hired to partner with a salesman, I will call him Mark.
Mark and I were instantly a great team. He was a decade older than I, so had more life experience. He had been a flight nurse, and was currently in the Air Force reserves. He was smart and a bit of a light hearted comedian; I was more serious but hey, I can be fun. We traveled locally from hospital to hospital. We worked really well together. He was single and had a happy personality, and he would play off that all the time. To give you a silly example, we walked up to a nurses station, the nurses were bustling around it. We were not catching anyone’s eye, so Mark picked up a flashlight from the desk and, turning it on, started flashing it in the nurses faces. This would be annoying, but somehow it was not, when Mark did it. As soon as he got some attention he would just be so engaging, so charming.
Mark loved 50’s music and whenever we had a sales meeting he would bring his boom box and play his favorite hits afterwards. He was fun about it though, a work party was always better with Mark. He started dating this adorable woman and my husband and I would meet them often for drinks or dinner. We played rounds of Chip and Putt together, the four of us.
After three years as partners with me, the company pulled him to a territory out west that was a new target area; he was on an advance team helping to establish business. He became the top sales rep on this travel team. I took over our old territory myself.
He eventually officially transitioned out west to live and work. I became pregnant, and delivered, my first child. Mark sent the sweetest baby gift, these adorable, tiny, sneakers.
Have you ever gotten a phone call where you literally, have to sit down? Crumple down to the floor actually, with a moan of disbelief, or other sounds you have never made. There are times in life that sounds come because words can’t. I got a sudden call about Mark, while the tiny sneakers were still fresh in the box. He had broken up with a western girlfriend. She began to date someone else. He climbed up onto the second floor balcony of the girlfriends apartment while the someone else was there. He shot and killed him. He jumped down, drove off in his car and killed himself in the garage of the company, using company materials.
It was a total shock. I would have chosen not to believe, if that was a choice I had available. I would have signed a list, been one of 65 women to say how sweet he was, how easy to work with. I would have written a letter, been a character witness for him. I had no warning, no inkling, ever. I had no reason to doubt him, and might have doubted any one who told me something I did not want to hear. Mark had a side he never showed me. Who knew.
People do not have to be all or one thing. Sometimes we cannot imagine what we humans are capable of. We can have a successful life and rewarding career... and then. We can be capable of great, surprising love... or not.
I still wonder if the thank you note for the tiny sneakers, with the baby pictures I had tucked so happily inside, was ever opened by the Mark I knew.
Sent from my iPhone
We had quite the afternoon on Sunday. Skippy was not himself. He could barely stand outside in the morning. He slept and slept.
I woke him to take him out again. He managed both businesses but then his hindquarters plunked down, weakly. He refused water and food. He refused vanilla ice cream. (Vanilla ice cream had inspired him to live on a prior occasion.) He is 16 years and 4 months old. Almost 115 years old if the 7/1 ratio is true.
He seemed to be leaving us. It seemed to be his time.
Slowly, he almost stopped.
He stretched out on our laps, wrapped in a blanket. He was limp, his eyes only flickering open when we moved his head. He breathed in a pattern of deep and rapid then shallow and slow, a Cheyne-stokes rhythm. This was it, I thought. As his immediate family we prepared ourselves. Those who could gather, gathered and said what they needed to say.
Hours went by. He was cradled in arms throughout.
And then he stirred. He had to go out. He wobbled but managed. Back in, he wiggled to be let down. He wandered, getting his sea legs.
He eagerly ate his favorite, ice cold vanilla flavor. He wanted more. He ate his dog food.
It was like he went to the edge of the rainbow bridge and then came back.
Twenty four hours later he ran past me on the sidewalk. The night was crisp and fall-ish. There were crunchy leaves to run through. He scampered like a puppy, because he could. Back in the house, he pranced past Johnny K to get a treat.
This morning he sleeps in the sun, because it is out, and because it shines in the front door this time of year, and because I moved his bed into the warm spot.
He just wasn't ready to leave these simple things. You know, the simple things we sometimes do not notice.
Arms that hold you when you do not feel right.
Crisp fall air.
Leaves from trees.
A cozy bed.
"I think...." he started to say, and paused.
His head tilted as he thought- transferred this to me, so that it would be emphasized. It is the cutest way dogs have to make you pay attention.
"I think it is good to love these things, even before you might lose them."
I patted his head and, once again, fixed his ear so it hung down properly.
"Well said," I said. "I'll pass that on."
I copied down the address of the mother who lived on the other side of the world, and I carefully chose a sympathy card at a Hallmark store. I sat before it, wanting to tell the mother this story. I considered what to write for days. Weeks went by, and the right words just wouldn't come. I was afraid I might be misunderstood, or not culturally correct, and in my naïveté could unknowingly harm. I never sent the card.
I try to trust that she felt us from across the world, loving for her.
Her son was only in his 20's and he was in the United States of America from far, far, away. He was in this country temporarily working, doing a job that reflected his intelligence and skill.
A sudden calamity struck him. His brain suffered a catastrophic injury, leading to a clinical diagnosis of death. His family was made aware that he had died. Here in an American hospital his body stayed temporarily connected to machines that pushed air into his lungs while his family was given the news.
Distance and expense and logistics of travel made it impossible for his mother to arrive and touch him. She could not arrive and mother him at the time of his death.
This far away mother consented to organ donation; allowing her son, who was here temporarily, to save the lives of five Americans.
You may have heard that as you read, but did you feel it? This mother from the other side of the world consented to organ donation, allowing her son, who was here temporarily, to save the lives of five Americans.
I was in the operating room as these precious gifts were recovered so that they could save lives and transform families. I was there next to his body when the surgery was complete and the surgeons made the final careful, closing stitches. At other hospitals, transplant surgeries were going to begin. Here in this operating room, it was an ending.
The two operating room nurses and I, we talked together. We happened to all be the mothers of sons. We felt a connection and a responsibility to this mother so far away. And together, without a plan, we began to serve her.
We washed his body reverently. We talked to his mother as if she could hear us, about how beautiful he was, and about the difference he was going to make. We comforted each other, saying "I know, this is so sad" with our voices hitching as tears rolled down our cheeks. We had to pause to blow our noses.
We wrapped his body in a blanket. We stood around the stretcher, and we reached for each other's hands. We prayed a human prayer for him and his mother, voicing the hopes and sorrows of all mothers everywhere. We spoke with the hope that our words were fitting, not knowing the beliefs and customs of this family. We respected. We honored. We loved. We felt humbled.
And we bonded. These women and I. We were representing the sisterhood of the world.
It was the united sisters of the world that wheeled his body to the hospital morgue in silence. We positioned the stretcher in place. The stretcher wheel squeaked as we locked it. We patted the blanket he was under, in farewell. We zipped up the last section of his white morgue covering.
We closed the door of the morgue leaving his body "alone" inside. We were together in the long, silent basement hallway where no one goes unless death comes.
We turned to each other without words and became a clump. Our arms wrapped around each other and our tears mixed and I remember now we had so much sound and feeling among us it was as if we cried for every child ever lost through all lifetimes.
You may know what I speak of, what it feels like, this holy moment as you serve another. For you are a sister of the world, too. You may not have had a holy moment yet, but there will come a time when it will be your love, your kindness, your attention which will be a gift to another.
He was here temporarily. And isn't that true of us all? Every day there are things that happen that remind us there is no real difference or distance. May our hearts stay open to those opportunities, my sisters and brothers of the world.
Things that stand out to me still, from when I was little? Family adventures when we had to get up and leave while it was still dark out. We got up one morning in the silence before the birds were singing. We got dressed up in our best and headed out in the car to meet a giant bus that was taking us to the Worlds Fair in New York. I was wearing a blue dress and patent leather shoes and little white anklets with lace around the top and I am sure I folded them carefully down so the lace was more visible.
On the bus I had a window seat. The sun was not up. The bus was waiting for more passengers in the parking lot. I was sleepy but fully awake.
Little children do not have much clutter in their heads, and so they can marvel at things.... and this was one of those moments for little girl me. For in that light, my dress was the most beautiful blue I had ever seen. A secret blue, created by a tired moon and starlight from thousands of years ago that in moments would be hidden by the slow emergence of a glorious sun. The sun provides a beautiful blue, but it takes a pre-dawn adventure to bring out secret starlight blue, and it is fleeting. Maybe it only happens once in a lifetime. And you have to be on your toes to capture the perfection.
Sometines you get a hint of it, though? Secret starlight blue. Unexpectedly. Outside a grocery store, even. A blue not quite as secret, but close enough to make you remember.
In Texas there was a 41 year old drowned mother whose three year old was saved, the child was still clinging to her mother's body. Well done, mamma; well done. I weep for you and the fear you must have had in your last minutes. I weep. Do we need to know what color her skin is or what nationality or if she had papers or was born here? No. Unimportant. We only need to know she gave her life for her child, she saved her child and we as fellow humans must somehow raise her child for her. Mothers, hear me. This is what we must do.
Watch the footage and hear the frightening stories and breathe in the wonder and the possibilities that this devastation puts on beautiful display for us. When we are united we are stronger, when we are generous and kind and caring and reach out we are stronger. When we risk our own lives for another human being we are a credit to our human race.
I just saw a human chain of people rescue a man from a truck and there was every color in that human chain of 20 people and probably every sexual orientation and maybe some illegal immigrants and who cares about any of it, they all had beating hearts that worked as one, all at risk, to save one. Would you not weep with gratitude if you were so blessed to be served by twenty loving strangers.
If we as people have ever thought ourselves superior to others then we better not get into their boat if the others are the ones to come to our aid. Do you hear what I am saying? You are the sum of your choices and who you decide to be from moment to moment matters.
I hope you will choose to be from love. Just choose to be as loving as you can in any moment. I see the love within you. I know it runs deep and cannot be diluted for all the rains in Texas. Reach for your best self. We sure need each other to heal this hurting world.
Would you have joined hands with that human chain, waist deep in water?
Of course you would have.
For that is who you are.
Melissa Regan has approached grieving families about Organ Donation for over 12 years. She is a wife, mother, lifelong learner, and lover of the wonder you can find in a single moment. Recently she changed her life by studying Positive Psychology and Let Your Yoga Dance®. Join her in taking a day to be thoughtful... the rest of your life is here.