Saturday, January 8, 2011

Making deals with God

Most people don't know this, but I donated blood the day before Rick died. I'd never donated before but I woke up that morning with the most magnificent idea. I had a deal for God: I'd donate my blood to help replace the multiple bags Rick had needed since learning of his cancer. I'd help give back what he took, and in return, God would spare his life. It felt like such the perfect plan that I may or may not have imagined myself shaking hands with God, making the deal unofficially official. I was going to save Rick's life.

I waited an hour in the traveling blood clinic. I sat patiently and watched as potential donors checked their watches repeatedly. Some just shook their heads and continued to wait, and others walked away. I watched a man faint as he climbed down from the donation table and he had to be placed in a special chair that could be laid back to help re-circulate his blood. I was a little freaked out, but I wasn't going anywhere. And when it was all said and done, after they'd interrogated me for my health record, and taken my blood, I walked out of there feeling like a rockstar with a bandage on my arm and a half eaten bag of Famous Amos cookies in my hand. I couldn't wait to walk into the hospital later sporting my "I Donated Blood Today!" sticker and whenever someone asked me about it I was going to say, "I did it for Rick."

He died 20 hours later.

Grief consumed my family after that and I didn't think much about my blood or giving it away. That is, until I received a thank you letter from The Red Cross. It said THANK YOU FOR SAVING A LIFE in bold, red letters across the top. I started crying, then sobbing, then ripping the letter into tiny pieces as I screamed, "But I saved the wrong life!"

I don't believe that anymore.

At some point along the way I put my anger aside and was able to come to my senses. I now give blood whenever I'm eligible. I situate myself on a large metal cot. I watch as the nurse swabs my arm with iodine. They prick me with a needle and I watch my blood flow into a bag at my side as I squeeze and release a therapeutic ball. All the while I think about my brother. I still do it for him and for all the kind people who donated their blood to keep him alive as long as he was. It's like a memorial for him every 56 days, and I walk away feeling like a rockstar every time, because even though my blood didn't save my own brother, it CAN save someone else's loved one.

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