Thursday, November 1, 2012

The letter

I typed it first because heart does not travel to hand anymore, to the pen therein.

Thoughts flow best when they are tapped out on qwerty, watching words appear on the screen as if they didn't originate in my own head. Surprised by them.

My friends joked that my donor family would regret having got me as one of their recipients because they would be tormented with having to read pages long letters every year.

Obviously I had intended to write on each anniversary of my joy and their sorrow. But I thought I would allow also for random notes, scribbled to them at the end of a big day, or just a good day.

Not in some misguided effort to force these strangers to share in my happiness. But in hope of making them less sad, even for a moment. In the hope that it might get talk going in their kitchen again.

It’s one of those incidentals I remember from my dad dying. The silence in the house. The feeling that to create noise or to utter a futile sentence about anything, anything at all, would be taken as a sign that you were moving towards living with his absence. To converse was to betray.

It took a long time for that to lift.

In all honesty, I was itching to write my letter. This, I could do. Typing, deleting, doing over. The tone was never going to be right, but I told them what I knew so far of this new life. I told them about my wondering and my longing.

Wondering if maybe I had sat opposite their son or daughter or brother or sister on a bus one day, or if we had both been on Grafton Street one Christmas evening, looking in at the sparkling window of Brown Thomas. Or if maybe we were both at Witness before it became the misspelled Oxegen.

This is a small island, after all.

My longing relates only to my wish that I could give my donor a hug. That is what I feel most.

The letter was left unsealed, and placed inside another envelope to be forwarded on to the transplant coordinator. She is the go-between between me and this family. The one who rang me the morning of my great news after she left the quiet room of devastation where a family had signed away the organs.

I wonder about her role and whether I am to her the cat that got the cream. Some part of her must dislike me.

When she read my letter, she rang me. Lovely, she said. But not for this situation, not for these people. They’re not ready to know you, even like this, with no name provided, just details of my sickness and my wellness that is due in full part to them.

The writer in me felt rejected. What awful people we are. No matter what the forum or the audience, you come first looking for praise. In this case, I would have settled for acceptance.

My coordinator said she would hang on to the letter and maybe send it in a few months. I called her this week to check. The letter has not travelled any further. Not now. Probably not ever.

It’s not my story they are looking for. I understand that now. To smother them with all I want to say would be selfish. It's a variation of trying to make someone you've hurt listen to your justifications, your pleas, your apologies, when they just want to cry and process a confusion of feelings.

Some editing then, reducing a long letter of rambling to the phrases that are most necessary and that will fit in one simple sympathy card.

“I’m sorry...It worked...Thank you”


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  2. I think if it was me, I'd like to read a letter like that. Even if not immediately, some day. I know when my cousin died at 23, her brothers found HUGE comfort from the fact that her organs went on to help someone else. I'll never forget her younger brother nearly boasting about it after the funeral. He was so proud.

  3. @Conor - I've sent you an email

    @Laney - Thank you for sharing that. I think I just assumed this family would take some solace from hearing how well I was doing. Everyone deals with grief differently, I know. Having to deal with organ recipients on top of that might help some, but hinder others, at least for a time. I hope your cousin had a happy life for those 23 years she was with you.

  4. I can't add anything here, except to echo LaneyTiggy's first line.
    It does my heart a small wonder every time I remember that you were once, so recently, mortally sick. And now you're not. Its odd, but I get a feelgood kick out of it every time. Probably because this blog made it real, and in almost realtime, and there was never any guarantee of a happy ending.
    In fact more than once when the posts were thin on the ground I'd have a wee flutter of worry in the part of me that deals in hypochondria, panic and existential angst. I think it's called the worrybone and it's located in the lizard-brain. Probably. Down deep anyhows.
    You should write more, especially if you're having trouble getting proper work, keep the auld toe in and that.