Immediately after my father’s release from the hospital last March everyone in my family wrote a personal letter to my father’s donor’s family to thank them for their life saving decision, in the face of what must have been terrible grief. My father has written a few additional letters over the course of his first year post-transplant as he has savored and celebrated annual milestones that had once seemed impossibly out of reach. He has intended that his news of survival and revival would offer some comfort to the donor family and would somehow convey the gratitude and blessing he has felt. He had hoped that he would receive a reply, but also realized that perhaps his letters brought too much pain to be answered.
Yesterday, somewhat fittingly St. Valentine’s Day, my father received a letter from the family of his donor. The letter was written on December 26, 2008 but arrived just yesterday after having been routed through the national organ donor network to preserve everyone’s privacy, which I will continue to do here. My father is spending a few months in Florida, enjoying his regained freedom, so the letter was forwarded to him there.
My father called me at home yesterday. When I answered the phone I could hear such a trembling in his voice that I immediately became alarmed. I thought something was wrong. But quite the contrary, he was overwhelmed with joy to finally know a bit about person that he now shares a life with. So with a determined but quavering voice, he read the letter to me.
The letter was written by the donor’s father. His father told us a lot about his son: his name and age, about his children, favorite sports, and so on. The letter included specific memories about his son throughout his life. It was a wonderful letter. It was pretty apparent that this was a person who was a part of many other people’s lives. It made the joy of his life and the pain of his loss real to us.
Now when I think "Thank you" I feel like I can direct it to someone specific, in a more personal way. And that feels better to me.