Three and a half years ago, I sat by my daughter’s bedside, watching her slowly die as I held her hand. As machines were unplugged and the minutes ticked by, a strange new reality settled in around me.
I was losing an inextricable piece of my heart. My beautiful 22-year-old girl — who only days before was buying books for her college classes — would instead be returned to dust.
Her father, her brother and I watched, dumbfounded, as the Neuro-Trauma team went about their end of life tasks.
In an instant, life had turned radical on us. Save for one small grace.
Because of the nature of Teal’s death – a medically unexplainable cardiac arrest – her organs and tissues could be easily donated. Lives could be saved, and so my own shattered life could somehow begin to make sense again.
Today I find myself awash with gratitude.
Believe me, I’ve thought long and hard about this experience. And I’ve extracted some precious truths. For donating life is not a cut and dried experience; it lives in your heart and soul like a small, eager plant, winding its tendrils around your everyday experiences.
If you let that precious vine of love do its work, you can, in fact, be renewed. I know I was.
One of Teal’s kidneys and her liver went to two women in their fifties. Her heart and her other kidney were received by a free-spirited young woman not much older than Teal. A young woman I’ll call ‘Amy’.
“It may sounds strange,” Amy wrote to us in a letter overflowing with gratitude, “but I feel your daughter and I would have been good friends if given the chance ….”
This young woman and I have never met, though we’ve corresponded and spoken on the phone. And just those few conversations have been enough to blaze a path through my soul, as a tiny bit of light cracks open around me.
This is a really hard thing to get.
A life was saved. Like .. saved. Yes, someone’s life was actually saved.
By me. By us. By our small consortium, standing in the Neuro-Trauma unit of San Francisco General Hospital making a decision on an August afternoon. Somehow the celestial joined us that day, and waved its fairy wand.
And so a life was saved. Maybe even several.
There is someone walking around out there – a young woman, like Teal but not like Teal in her own beautiful way – who can walk up hills now without becoming faint, and who has color in her cheeks again. She can roar through the woods on zip lines, and travel around the world …
There is a young woman out there who is now free to find the career of her dreams. She can marry, have children, and pursue anything else she so desires.
There’s also a mother out there, who can rest easy at night now, knowing her daughter won’t die tomorrow. All because Teal died and we agreed to donate her organs.
So I ask you — isn’t this the point of life, to share the love, however we can? At the time, I had no idea how big this gift was – nor did I understand how it would keep giving back to me again and again.
Yet, that is exactly what happened.
You give an anonymous gift from the heart, simply because it feels like the right thing to do. And that heals your own tattered heart.
Now I understand both the fragility of life, and our own power to support and save each other. But more importantly, I understand the critical calling to save someone you may never know.
So I become uplifted every time I think of those people who have Teal’s cells, organs, and DNA in their bodies. I don’t have to know their names … I just need to know that now we are a little bit closer, these strangers and I.
We are invisible friends in the unified field of love – a magical place that unites us all. For in the end, what are we beyond bones, skin, tissues, and organs?
We are love, my friend.
In the end, we really are just love.