Thursday, March 15, 2012

To whom it concerns

In my life, I have received correspondence of all kinds, written with a whole range of purposes. Love letters from boys who came and went; notes in my lunchbox from my mother, when I had been bold and she had been mad and both of us fools were regretful.

There have been letters of rejection from employers who didn't see it in me; scraps of paper passed in class, about the disco at the weekend or with the latest of who was shifting whom; many, many windowed envelopes with hospital appointments laid out inside.

I like getting letters. I like seeing a new email in my inbox. And I know of nobody who doesn't feel some small anticipation at the sound of the letterbox flapping in the morning. Something for my eyes only, from someone who thought me worthy of some words today.

In recent weeks, I have received a different type of correspondence from families who are strangers to me. Hearts broken, grief still clawing away at their door, they have found it within themselves to write.

One mum and dad told me of their son; another mum wrote to me of her daughter. Both young, both beautiful inside and out, both at the start, at the beginning of everything their lives should have held. Both now gone.

The sad stories that these two families have to tell have in common the decision to donate the organs of their children. In fact, in both these cases, the boy and the girl had made their wishes known in conversations with their parents before their donor cards were tragically transformed, from a good intention into a good deed done.

The correspondence from these parents has been welcome. They heard of me through my appearance in newspapers after my transplant. They have wished me well, and I know they mean it.

I have responded to them as best I can. Difficult to make the pen and paper connect and produce some thoughts that may comfort them, but writing back, and giving them the small happiness that comes from the receipt of a letter or an email, that is the least I can do.

I feel in some way as though I owe them, that I owe donor families the world over.

To be indebted like this though, it is no burden at all.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Taking the Pet Shop Boys' advice...Going West

Last time I was there, there were presents.

There were re-runs of the films that have proven most popular over the years on the telly, and the annual attendance at Mass, and a dinner that I could barely eat.

It was Christmas, and I can see now that it was miserable.

At the time, I prevailed, and continued to play the light-hearted act I put on for the family for every visit, because it's easy to fool even those who know you longest when you have enough practice.

Tomorrow, I will travel home for the first time since my transplant. I'm wary to leave Dublin, where there are hospitals that can respond to my needs, but to see my little nieces again will probably prompt happy tears, because those kids have my heart.

They won't understand the transformation internally since they saw me last, but maybe even they will perceive the change.

I am sure I smile more these days.

And I am told I look younger, which could be the steroids, or it could be that worry and weary are no longer creasing my brow.

The car will stay here. I have the freedom now to take the train again, because there is no machine to transport. No boxes of dialysis fluid to break my heart and hands, lugging them from my top-floor apartment down to the back seat, cursing them silently - and sometimes not so silently.

More often than not, I was left in bad form for the cross-country trek before even putting the key in the ignition.

My luggage this weekend will be identical to every other girl rushing to board at Heuston Station.

Clothes. Cosmetics. Carefree thoughts.

Yes, the load is certainly lighter.