A couple of weeks ago I had a flashback of sorts. When I was a teenager I went through a stage where when anyone talked about death or being buried, I would state that I wanted to be cremated. My mother would physically grimace and tell me every single time, "not if you go before I do."
My mother is from the deep South. I mean the deep, deep South of Alabama. The place where death is discussed quietly, almost in secret and must be carried out with the utmost dignity and respect. And cremation is not respectful. In my mother's words, "There is no closure in cremation. Funerals are for the living, not the dead. The ones left behind need something to see, to identify with, and say goodbye to." Cremation does not allow such. It's ash's in a box or an urn. Not a person. Not the loved one who has left this world far too early.
In my mind, the person in the typical funeral, was the person in a closed up box, where it's hot and uncomfortable. That same said box will be lowered into the ground with dirt and worms and who knows what all. Quite frankly, in my opinion, there is nothing dignified about being laid down amongst dirt and worms. But to my mother, oh the horrors of being set on fire and disintegrated. Never gonna happen. Not on her watch anyway.
Twenty some odd years later, one of my boys is talking about his driver's license. One thing leads to another, and we're suddenly on the subject of the organ donor category. Joshua and Zachary are talking back and forth and state that have both chosen to be organ donors. I pipe up and say that I am too. Josh makes the statement that "I just figured, why should I care, I'm not gonna need any of that stuff anyway and someone else could use it"...and that's when it happens. The flash explodes in my face, and I am suddenly my mother.
This is what I know happens. Even though you can be buried in a normal service after donating your organs, more times than not, the services are carried out closed casket. Because someone has gone into every part of your body and removed what can be taken. The shell that is left is not always presentable.
Now, while this is alright for me, all of a sudden, I'm not so sure if it's alright for one of my children. I mean, heck, I'm old, who cares what I look like when they're done. If they can take anything that will be helpful to someone else, I could care less. But if God forbid, one of my children should go before me, I just don't think I'm going to like that idea. The idea of having nothing to say goodbye to. Oh my, now I am my South Alabama mother.
I didn't say anything out loud to either one of my children. Number one, I was now regretting whoever started this subject. Number two, I could not being myself to tell them how selfish I felt about their unselfish act of donation.
So, I forced myself, quietly, to think about it for what it is...a beautiful act of giving and compassion for someone who is still here after you are gone. It would make it possible for someone's loved one to see out of a beautiful pair of eyes that have never seen boundaries, to beat with a heart that has always been full of love and compassion and fight for the underdog, to live with a clean and untainted liver because of the boy who believes only good things should enter his body, or kidneys that have been flushed clean with gallons and gallons of water since the beginning of time.
That's what organ donation is about. Not about me. Not about anyone, but the beautiful people who selflessly contribute to the beautiful people who need what they have to give in order to live. And I know know, nobody likes to talk about death. But this story isn't about death. It's about life. And I like to talk about anything that warms my heart. And my boys and the way they look at life, truly warms my heart.