Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Diversity of Blessings

Within the span of a few days before and since my surgery, I received an overwhelming number of well-wishes - far more than I ever imagined. I have recorded each one of them and will reflect on them over the days of recovery to come. Each wish and blessing will be cherished and there are three that particularly made me pause to think.

A few days before my surgery, two different friends - the transplant follow-up nurse, Sharon, and my doesn't-know-how-pretty-she-is best friend, Judy, both sent me a saying from the Talmud, the Jewish book of teachings. Judy and Sharon have never met, but each spoke of the meaningfulness of the gift I was giving and the quote they both shared was "if you save a single life, it is as if you have saved the whole world." I truly appreciated the sentiment, but felt they were overstating the significance.

The night before surgery I received a number of heartfelt e-mails that helped me fall asleep feeling especially well loved and cared for. One of them came from Nancy. I met Nancy through her brother, Bob, who serves on the Community Mediation board with me. Their father was in the hospital with a terminal illness last year. After my first visit to his room, I fell in love with him. He reminded me so much of my own father and I visited him until we lost him at home a few months later. Nancy sent me a beautiful note that included the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. I have omitted portions, but it goes in part as follows:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love; ...
... and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive ...

Nancy highlighted that last line. I had heard this last line many times in my life, but usually as a child when you grudgingly gave a gift you really wanted to keep for yourself.

The first morning after surgery that I woke up at home in my own bed, the reality of it all hit me for the first time. I lay there and thought, "They actually took my kidney out of my body and it lives in another human being now. And I feel perfectly normal just like waking up any other day." It felt other-worldly. I don't know that I have the words to describe it but I will never forget it. A little while later I reached for my blackberry and saw that an overnight email had come from my friend, Hamed, in the United Arab Emirates. Hamed told me that he and his family were talking about my experience and discussing organ donation as a family. That made me feel so wonderful. Then he too went on to talk about my gift and shared with me a saying from the Prophet Mohammad - "You will not believe before or until you wish for your fellow human being and neighbor what you wish for yourself."

I am so fortunate (dare I say blessed?) to have such a wonderful diversity of friends who care enough to share their blessings with me. But I was mostly struck by the fact that these three different religious traditions all hold as basic tenents the importance of giving to others and treating others as we treat ourselves. I am sure that my sister, Sarah, who teaches world religions could give me teachings from the other great religious traditions that are along the same thought.

We have heard all our lives - it is better to give than to receive. I think we all understand this saying intellectually and try to practice it, but do we really believe it? Well, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is true.

I don't know that I have saved the world as the Talmud suggests or have given my fellow being what I wished for myself as the Prophet Mohammad said but I can tell you that I have received back in a few short days far more than my kidney could ever have been worth. As Saint Francis said it is through this giving that I have been the one who has received immeasurable blessings. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me in so many ways so far during this journey.


  1. Dear Pamela, it was indeed a great gift you gave in choosing to donate one of your kidneys... God bless you richly!
    I just want to share this verse from the Bible with you: 2Corinthians 9:8- God is able to make all grace abound towards you that always having all sufficiency in all things, you may abound to every good work!
    Thanks for sharing this with us... I wish you a speedy recovery and many more healthy years!

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