Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"It Can't Take Away What You've Lost ....

 * I originally posted this on my blog in March of 2009After watching today's "Oprah" I was reminded of it .... again.

                         Jim and me .... at the huge surprise party he managed to truly pull off, for my 40th.

... but it is something."

The above title and sentence was a line from last night's episode of "E.R.".*
It stopped me ...... I literally stopped and stared at the screen.  And no, it wasn't because it was George Clooney who said it.
He was playing his doctor-self, Dr. Ross.  
He was sitting in a private waiting room ...... you know, one of THOSE rooms ...... a room which you really know you don't want to walk into.  Like the one into which I was half-carried, half dragged.

He was sitting with a grandmother, who's teenage grandson was on life-support.  He was brain-dead.  Very, not-ever-coming-back, brain-dead.  And she didn't want to let go.  She didn't want to give up hope, even though hope had walked out the door a long time ago.  She didn't want to talk about donating his organs.

They talked for a bit and then he asked, "What was Billy like?" And she talked a little about him. You could see the light growing in her eyes as she continued to describe her precious grandchild.  He's smart, funny, handsome, loves to play music, has a lot of friends, has a wonderful heart, etc. 
Dr. Ross said, "He sounds like a great kid." and she replied..... "Yes".

Then, he very quietly asked ........ "Generous?"
And she struggled with the pain of that answer.  She couldn't look up for a minute, couldn't say what she knew was the truth.  Then she looked up and the pain was over flowing ....... and she finally whispered, "Yes" ....... and then asked what organs could be used.

They continued talking for a bit and then he said, "It can't take away what you've lost, but it is something .....".

And I heard myself repeating that sentence .... aloud.  Son #1 looked up at me ..... probably thinking I'd had one too many glasses of wine. 
I looked at him and said, "It IS something.....".

And then the memory of my moment in dealing with that came back to me.....

It was the day he died ..... had to be, of course.  The same day I had to go to the funeral home to make "arrangements" ...... the day he died.
 So completely inhumane ..... (our practice of "making arrangements").

I don't know what time of day it was, I just remember someone walking into my bedroom, where I was lying on the bed, and hearing that someone from the hospital needed to talk to me on the phone.  
I don't remember who told me ..... there were many people in my home that first week ..... many.  I can't remember all of the faces, but I remember that they were there.

And so I walked into the kitchen, sat down on a chair and picked up the phone.  
I laid my head down on the desk and I kept my eyes closed.
And began a conversation with a woman who's job I would hate to have.

Of course since Jim died while in surgery there weren't any major organs that could now be donated.  But you would be surprised at how very much of the body can.

And so she painfully went down the very long list .... one item at a time, while I, too, whispered .... "Yes", to every item she brought up.

Because ........ although it couldn't take away what I had lost ......  it WAS something.


  1. I do not think people will ever realize how painful losing your best friend can be and how so many things can haunt us years later. Even when we know we are doing something that will benefit others, it still hurts like hell that we have to lose what is most precious to us.

  2. I remember reading this post last year, and feeling the same things I feel right now. Matt was an organ donor, but I didn't think of it the day he drowned, and no one mentioned it. No one asked. I didn't even realize it until a few weeks later, and then had such a huge rush of feeling like I let him down by not remembering, and that I had not followed his wishes. And then, faster today than back then, I remind myself that I could not think of everything, that there is nothing to forgive. Thank you for reposting this janine, it shows me I am little faster at being gentle with myself.


  3. I remember the same conversation with the organ donation lady...the questions they ask seem so ridiculous at the time, when it is all still so surreal to be talking about your loved one's body parts. I still have mixed emotions when I get a new notice that some other person has received some part of him...

  4. How very generous of you to give the one thing you could - to give life in the midst of such grief, to have an open heart in the middle of a heart breaking.
    I hope this memory while painful is a reminder - with every loss something remains.

  5. Yes, I also remember the same conversation with the donation lady. I was amazed at what they wanted to still use. I never knew and could have gone the rest of my life not knowing. But here I am.
    Thanks for the post Janine, I had never seen it nor ever looked at the fact that, yes, it IS something.

  6. I sat and cried as I read this. Even now, 18 months later it hurts to think about. Jeff lay in a coma for 8 long days and we asked for the donation people to come and talk to us. It's a hideous process to fill out those forms and to have conversations with these people before your loved one is gone, but it's so important to do. A friend of mine wrote a blog entry that day that I read later that said "here they are, in the midst of the worst possible situation, but they are thinking clearly and trying to find some good that can come from this tragedy". His words touched me many months later when I actually read it - it is surreal to think he was talking about me and my children. I don't remember thinking clearly, but it must have seemed that way to others who were observing.

    Donating organs is a gift beyond compare forced by the worst possible situation and it IS something.

  7. I was sitting in Brian's room with him watching news coverage of about the shooting in Arizona when they said the little girl's organs had been donated, I knew we were only a few days away from ending treatment and I said to his nurse. " Who can I talk to about organ donation?"...I have the little sticker on my license but he never got one but I knew he would want to even though he couldn't tell me because of the coma. When I was sitting with the organ bank counselor I told her that Brian had gotten a donor ligament when he had ACL surgery. She said "So he was a recipient?". Funny how I never thought of it like that. Recipients get hearts and kidneys, etc, but, of course she was right...he was a recipient and that knee was like new after he recovered from the surgery. I remember being on the phone the night he died with the organ bank. It was a hard conversation but I was amazed at how much can be donated and how many people a donor can help. Unfortunately because his body had had so many infections(the last one was antibiotic resistant) they could not use anything from him. I had so hoped that a part of him would live on and someone else might carry a peice of him for 40 more years. It was not to be. I was sad about that but I know that the real parts of him, the "bigness" of his heart, his kind, generous and loving ways can be carried on by the kids and I and everyone whose life he touched.

  8. My husband was the recipient of a heart transplant 15 years ago. We were able to spend an additional 15 years that we would not have had thanks to the generosity of donors such as yourself. Sadly, I my husband died on March 12th 2011. I am forever grateful to you all for your unselfish gift.