Yesterday was a strange one.
The Service of Remembrance for Organ Donors was held in Dublin and I had to go. I will admit I wasn’t keen on the idea. I have not been happy for the last week or so and the idea of dwelling on my current situation through reflection at a semi-religious gig did not appeal.
But above that, there was the sure sense that someone in my position should be there. It is little to ask, that once every year, we organ harvesters and would-be organ harvesters, should come together and remember all of them.
Regular readers will have picked up on my pessimism when it comes to God, but I have some belief in the idea that where many people gather with a common spiritual purpose, something is achieved, some plain is reached.
The purpose of yesterday was to acknowledge the thousands and thousands of people who have donated organs since those operations were first carried out here decades ago. So many hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers and pancreases all floating around above ground and below the heavens, ticking on, despite accidents and traumas that killed many who were too young to die.
The Service was not so moving for me. In my selfishness, I found it difficult to see beyond the point where my own dialysis tube ends and where these miracles and acts of generosity and renewed life begin.
But I could appreciate the extreme sadness of so many families who were there, many probably not long bereaved, coming to that Church to see not a reincarnation of their loved one, but to seek solace in the fact that some good has come of that death.
For those who are transplanted, it is an odd occasion. It must be similar to a person who emerged unscathed from a two-car collision attending the funeral of the unlucky driver who died. You feel complicit in this grief, as though you were an accessory to it.
That would be my take on it anyway. I have written before about how uncomfortable I am with the fact that someone will die and I will profit from that. Not quite blood on my hands, but it feels wrong. It feels like unethical ambulance chasing by a greedy lawyer and grave robbing rolled into one. A Lionel Hutz-and the grave robbers from Huckleberry Finn-combo.
I hope in future, when I attend these Masses as a transplant recipient, I will be able to grasp the full reality of the occasion. I know it will be difficult to cry for someone I never knew and that whatever tears there may be will be of relief and gratitude for the fact I came through the other side of dialysis, but I hope there will be more.
I hope I never become complacent about it. I hope I never forget that the anniversary of my transplant will also mark the anniversary of the death of my donor. I hope I always remember to send a letter to that person’s family every year; that I live long enough to write a thousand thank yous in a thousand different ways.