I’m ashamed to admit that my mother had to remind me that tomorrow is the 11th of December. I mean, as soon as she said it, I knew what she meant… but when she commented on her plans for the day depending on her possible frame of mind I drew a blank. From 3ookm away, separated by distance, but joined by technology I’m sure she could sense my frown…. “It’s the 11th,” she said. And that was all she needed to say. SHHHHIIIIT… I thought. How could I forget? I mean, is today really the 10th? Shit shit shit. What if the day had come and gone and suddenly next week I’m having to write 12/12/11 or 16/12/11 and realise that I’ve missed such an important anniversary. Again, I say ... SHHHHIIIIIT….
I’ve written about it before, so I won’t go over the detail, but essentially 11 years ago at sometime around 9pm (on the 10th of December) my father rang my mother where she (and I) were staying at my brother’s. His news was both amazing and shocking. He was calling from his hospital bed to tell us that they’d located a donor heart for him. It was the start of a tumultuous night, day, week, month and year. At the time and for the years that followed we rejoiced in his revival, but also acknowledged someone else’s sacrifice. In fact, my father found it almost impossible to speak of his donor; overcome with gratitude, questions of worthiness and constantly reminded of the fragility of life.
There were the obligatory downsides… after all, nothing in life comes without a price tag – not even life itself. There were no deals with the devil, but there were other challenges – all of which I like to think we faced together, but most importantly my father faced them head-on with his wife of (at that stage) almost 40 years.
My father passed away almost exactly six weeks ago. I still can’t think of him being ‘gone’. But I think of him often.
This past year was the first that my brother and I also attended the annual Thanksgiving ceremony for donor families and recipients. My parents go every year, but this year they were visiting us so we all went to the service in our capital city. Other than the day before my father’s passing it is probably one of the single most devastating events I can remember. The collective sadness, graciousness and gratefulness in the room that day will stay with me. Forever.
This time 11 years ago someone else’s family was suffering a great tragedy. But… because of their generosity I had my father for an extra quarter of my life. And that – I have to say – is priceless. Whoever you are and whoever you were…. I cannot thank you enough.
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die. Thomas Campbell