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Your beautiful blood

My mom found my sister and me walking a block from our house.

I almost laughed as I climbed into her car. We’d walked nearly the whole way home from school already. What good was a single-block ride?

My mom spoke before I could laugh. Her words were so horrible, so incomprehensible, they stopped not only laughter but the whole world around me.

“Brian died last night.”

But … my godfather was so close to the top of the transplant list! So alive not so many hours ago! It couldn’t be.

It was.

I couldn’t have saved him. My lungs could not have bought his failed lungs more breath. But someone‘s could have. Someone else registered as an organ donor could have saved him.

Only in fifth grade, I was far too young to start donating blood, but I began almost the moment I was able.

I couldn’t save Brian, but I could maybe help someone with what I could give while still alive.

I did this though the very thought of my blood outside my body made me feel faint. I almost passed out several times.

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My mom joined me for a blood draw once.

“You have such beautiful blood,” she told me.

“Ugh. Stop, Mom!” I commanded her. I did not want to think, talk about or be reminded my blood was being moved outside my body. “And how is blood ‘beautiful,’ anyway? It just is. Ugh!”

(Giving blood did not make me a pleasant teen.)

I thought of my mom’s statement as I gave blood for the first time in years today.

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My 36-year-old self saw what my 17-year-old self couldn’t:

Mom probably wasn’t only talking about how my blood looked.

I imagined seeing my own sons’ blood. How that would remind me of the miracle–to me–of their lives. How those lives are sustained by this complex red fluid, which courses through their veins to keep their organs and bodies nourished.

I turned my head toward the tube filled with my blood. I saw it with tear-filled eyes.

I saw what my mom saw: that it is beautiful.

For the first time ever, I walked away from donating blood on steady feet.

I felt my godfather in the sunlight.

I felt my mother, whom I will miss as long as my heart pushes blood through my veins.

I felt the sweetness of life as I thought about sharing life. Sharing blood.

Beautiful blood.

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  1. February 24, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Lovely.

  2. February 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    This was so beautiful!

  3. February 24, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I so totally understood your Mom’s comment instantly….I, unfortunately, cannot donate, but my Princess does and I’m so envious of such a loving, selfless gift that she so often donates….I don’t think we ever stop grieving the loss of loved ones…I think the “grief” just takes different forms as we age and live our day to day lives. Thank you for sharing a part of you with us today…. ❤

    • February 25, 2015 at 5:25 am

      Less than a day removed, it seems so strange it took me so, so long to understand! Of course, the last time I donated (unless I’m forgetting something?) was before Li’l D was born. I’d always thought it was just my mom being kooky, but I was so glad to see otherwise yesterday. Hope your Tuesday is lovely. ♥

  4. February 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    People often accuse teenagers of being self-centered. They can be, but they can also be generous and giving. For example, giving blood so willingly like you did, even when the thought made you feel faint. 🙂

    • February 25, 2015 at 5:28 am

      What you describe is kinda how I recall myself as a teen: all self centered, all terrible, but occasionally I’m reminded there was more than that.

      Actually, before I wrote my YA trilogy in Japan, I spent six days writing an autobiography. After reading it, my siblings asked, “Where’s the good stuff?” “What do you mean, the good stuff?” “You know, the stories you told and the way you made us laugh … that stuff …” “There was good stuff?”

      I read a few teens’ blogs, and some of what I read about them doing warms my heart. Reading them when I’m saddened about the physical world we’re leaving behind for our kids reminds me … there is hope, and it is in them.

  5. cardamone5
    February 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Very touching, and so true. Blood is beautiful, both because of its links to our loved ones who have passed on, and are still in our lives and because of what it does to enable us to live. So very amazing, and beautiful. Your mom was a wise woman.

    fondly,
    Elizabeth

    • March 4, 2015 at 5:53 am

      She really was. Together with what I always thought of as her “colorfulness,” she had so much wisdom I wish I could have seen earlier. I am thankful to see it now.

  6. February 24, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Good for you — I too can’t give blood –they pump too much crap into my veins for the Crohn’s. But I’ve been an organ donor for years, and I have willed my body to science because doctor’s have been poking and proding me for so long — I might as well let them continue.

    When we adopted Jacob, there were horrible tales of folks adopting people for body parts. And so for his whole young life, had something happened to him, I couldn’t let him save someone else. It bothered him — it seemed stupid (it was). He signed the donor card with a flourish as soon as he was old enough.

    • March 4, 2015 at 5:57 am

      Gah! I wouldn’t say “stupid,” FWIW. If I were Spock (and my brother often suggested I was Lady Spock), I might call it illogical … but that’s the way of all emotions, and I’ll take that as a cost of living human!

      It’s awesome that Jacob’s become an organ donor. I hope my boys will register someday. Though I hope their organs will remain within their moving bodies for many, many years, the thought that someone–several someones–could live on longer if not is a sweet one.

  7. February 24, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I understood exactly what your mother meant. Like Elyse I am a organ donor and have donated my body to science. I am number three on the list who are not able to give blood, except to store it for myself in case of an emergency, given there is little in the banks that match and only two of my siblings match until one sort of didn’t know about found us a couple of years ago, because of a car accident and blood.

    I loved this one, your epiphany and your sharing. Heartstrings get tied in knots. ❤

    • March 4, 2015 at 6:01 am

      I think I was still a non-parent the last time I was asked about donating my body–or portions of it–to science. The thought made my skin crawl for reasons I can’t now remember, or explain.

      Reading Elyse’s comments and yours, I’m reminded why it’s good to periodically revisit certain questions. Just because I felt one way long ago doesn’t mean I still feel that way now. I will have to look into this now.

      It doesn’t surprise me that you got it right away. ♥

  8. February 25, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I love that you donated blood as a teen, I started as a young adult when my mother was very ill and required many surgeries and transfusions. I managed to reach 8 gallons donated before anemia associated with RA put an end to that. I now teach anatomy to high school students and I try to impart my profound excitement for all body systems…we just finished the chapter on blood and 9 of my 21 students volunteered to donate. I was as proud as your mom must have been.

  9. February 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Lovely and yes, how we take our bodies for granted. How complex and awesome they are and there’s the very blood which flows throughout and gives us life, not to mention our children. I haven’t donated blood in ages but you’re making me think. Maybe its time.

    • March 8, 2015 at 5:06 am

      It’d been years for me, too. When they asked how long it’d been, I couldn’t even remember the last time … just that it preceded (I think?) Li’l D, making it at least five years ago. It felt so good to return.

  10. March 2, 2015 at 6:07 am

    What a beautiful post. I also like to give blood, but haven’t done it in a while. This is a whole new perspective on the whole thing. Well done.

  11. March 8, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    An outstanding post with a personal touch while encouraging others to give.

  12. March 11, 2015 at 9:43 am

    beautiful post

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