In the hour it took me to start writing this, six people have been added to the national waiting list for organ donation. And by the end of today, 22 people on that list will die, having waited too long for what would have been a second chance at a one-chance life. Those numbers, I suppose, aren’t as sobering when considering the lives taken daily by way of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks, or even depression-related deaths.
But there’s something about slowly being chased by death that gives it a certain tinge. Or, at most, I can only pretend to imagine. Like that dream when you’re running from something as fast as you can only to look down to see you’re stuck in the same spot, motionless. In a construed way, dealing secondhand with this hunt provides a sense of wonder and propulsion to life. How often do I consider the wider impact of my daily decisions? The jobs I have, the words I say, the things I buy, the promptings I ignore. And how often do I walk and talk my way through each day, unaware of my tangible connection to all those around me whom I scarcely acknowledge, if at all?
I bought a bottle of water and a pack of gum yesterday and when I lifted my head to take my change from the cashier, I saw your eyes in hers; the left one slightly smaller than the right.
Walking down the street, I overheard a series of laughs from a woman which echoed yours; light and free and above the noise.
And everywhere else I seem to go, I catch glimpses of your cadence or your phrases or long neck or seeping kindness in anyone, everyone I see.
Once braindead, a registered donor’s organs have about a four-hour window of usability. That means we’re most likely living near or among the person whose lungs will soon be yours. At the very least, he or she is most likely less than a three-hour drive away. He or she could be any one of those strangers I witness on a daily basis in whom bits of you sing; the cashier or the laughing lady.
He or she is most likely between the age of 20 and 50 years-old. He or she is most likely a husband and father or a wife and mother. He or she won’t see it coming. He or she will have made no preparations. He or she will most likely be sad to leave a life and loved ones behind. But he or she will hopefully come to know someday that somewhere, maybe a three-hour drive away, is a daughter, sister, niece, cousin and wife of her own who will carry on his or her breath with the added measure of life they’ve gifted her.
And maybe that teaches us another lesson that would probably otherwise pass us by; that we’re more one than we realize. In death is life and in life is death and on and on and on. And composed in every breath we breathe is everything and everyone who once was, now is, and will be. And by standing up and taking part in that eternal round, we etch parts of ourselves in the greater human story, parts of ourselves in the shading trees and woolen caps and crooked smiles of who knows how many. It assures parts of you will remain in the eternal parts of me.
Maybe, in that larger context, there are no seams between a life and another life, aside from the ones we create. Everyone’s in this breathless chase, altogether and all at once. We’re all beggars for one more day; loose in a jungle of vanity and sorrow and pleasure and culture and deadlines. We’re all one string of events and of happenchance and of grand design that leads to something I can’t yet comprehend; a place of no end because there is no beginning. And maybe that’s the point.
Whichever end of this journey we find ourselves, let us not forget the marrow from which we all stem. Let us not find ourselves on the other side of life-or-death whittling away the constant gift of our unnumbered tomorrows. Let us, however, take your new breath and our new life and live the brash way we were intended, giving and doing and loving with dissipated fear and undetectable pride in an endless and seamless round, forgetting our place in the hunt, and drinking in, with furious abandon, the wild, wild air.