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.