This I believe about donation: I believe donation provides a unique and positive opportunity to contemplate life. When I first started working with families and learning how soon after a death we must speak to the decedent’s family about tissue donation, I was mortified to pick up the phone. Now, I feel I can help the living and the deceased. Not only am I helping the living recipients of the tissue we are seeking, but the living family members who have just been greatly impacted by the death of a loved one.
Death has the potential to be the most tragic thing imaginable in life. It can also be a wonderful opportunity to discuss what a happy, fulfilling and rewarding manner in which someone has lived their life. Sometimes it can be both. Organ and tissue donation after death can ease the inevitable pain suffered in either case, and help the living refocus on what is truly important.
While determining if the deceased is a suitable donor, families often say “he/she lived a good life”. – A summation which is obviously never made until one has died. The recognition that their parent, spouse, sibling or young child led a good life as short or as long as it was, is all that you can hope for in death. I believe that during this discussion, family members will recognize and label these exemplary values and make an effort to apply these values in their own lives. You can almost see the intense thoughts and feelings of admiration running through their minds. My job is most rewarding at these moments.
On other occasions, family members will sigh deeply before acknowledging that their loved one had a “difficult life”. Whether they struggled with mental or physical health issues, battled some bad habits or just had plain poor luck, family members can find relief in the fact that their loved one no longer has to suffer. For these families, the thought that donation may help ease another’s struggle can be comforting.
There is a small window after a death where family members and loved ones can openly and freely discuss the life of the deceased. They think hard about how the deceased has impacted them, by various experiences shared together and times of laughter and sadness. They consider how their own lives will be affected by the death. It is a short time that they can live in the moment, a moment where not much else matters but those memories. Soon they may have many people to call, funeral arrangements to make and others to accommodate. After that, they will begin to figure out how to adapt to a changed life.
I feel fortunate to be a part of the small window. It is a great privilege that I or donation can provoke a thoughtful outlook on life during a sometimes very difficult time of death.
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