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A Lack of Grief

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My mom died on April 2nd of last year. Before she died, I used to wonder how I would react to news of her death. I never thought I would have the deep and terrible sadness that I’ve seen in some people. I’m just not like that. But I did imagine missing her and grieving in my own way. Instead, I’ve hardly grieved at all.

I shed a few tears at her bedside when she was dying. I even got dewy-eyed at her funeral. But it was hard to be really sad knowing that she herself was ready to go and even looking forward to it. She was the one who insisted on not being kept artificially alive, who told the doctors to disconnect the machines that could only prolong her death rather than bring healing or hope. She was the one who welcomed death.

What sadness I did feel seemed more like self-pity.

Of course, I miss her. I always enjoyed talking with her, although our conversations had become less and less frequent. In recent years we were not close, not because of any rift between us but because I lived 9 hours away and had a family of my own who needed me more. I have grieved less than I thought I would. I don’t know what to make of it. Perhaps I really am Mr. Spock.

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Indecision

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My nephew, David, posted the following on his Facebook wall about a year after losing his younger brother in a car accident.

It interesting how much one’s views can be altered by experiences. Before my little brother’s death I was an organ donor. It’s seemed like a simple decision at the time. As I checked the box on the drivers’ license form, I distinctly remember thinking,  “I’m not going to need them. Heck, might as well let someone else who does have them.”

Then my little brother, Scott, got into his car drove off to meet his older brother, Marshall, for a concert. He never got there. Scott was an underage consenting organ donor. He was declared brain dead sometime early on  the Saturday morning following the accident. No brain activity, no blood flow in his brain. He was dead. He would never wake up. Yet he was on life support, most of the rest of his body unharmed. A perfect donor patient. At this point my family had a decision to make. Did we want to go through the organ donating process with Scott’s brain-dead body, or did we simply want to unplug the machines and let the rest of his body realize it was dead? My family decided that Scott would have wanted to be a donor. If Scott had not been a minor, we would have had no say in this matter. He would have been a consenting organ donor of legal age to make the decision for himself. And so my parents got to sit in the hospital for two days and watch their son be dead but not dead. I finally made my way home on the afternoon of the first day, and I saw my little brother for the fist time. He looked like he was sleeping. I wanted to shake him. “Scott, wake up! We’re all here for you, buddy.” He did not wake up. He would never wake up. I sat with him a while. At one point a cheery nurse came in and checked his vital signs. She was very pleased to see how fast his body had come out of shock. Finally, on Sunday evening they wheeled Scott off to the operating room where they harvested his organs. He was finally, truly dead. I remember, it was raining. The organ donating process had taken a heavy toll on Scott’s loved ones, especially my parents.

At that point I decided: I was not going to be an organ donor. I simply could not put my family through that again. I was so adamant about it that I took a permanent marker and blacked out the word “Donor” on my driver’s license. A few weeks later, I was going through security on my way to Korea. The security lady looked at my driver license and said “You don’t want to be a Donor?” I looked her straight in the eyes and said adamantly, “No I do not.” A few weeks after that, I went to the DMV. I was prepared to pay the $35 in cash to have them print me an new driver’s license. I wanted three things changed. I wanted a “Good” picture taken, I wanted my address updated, and I wanted my donor status changed. I told horror  stories at work and warned people to think twice about becoming a donor.

And then my parents told me about a chance meeting they had with the man who got my little brother’s heart. My parents were both very encouraged by meeting him and realized that the agony of dragging out my little brother’s death had allowed someone else to live. After hearing Mom and Dad talk about him, I wanted to meet this man whose life my brother’s death had saved. For the record, I have not changed my driver license back. I’m still mulling over whether I ever will.

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