A Chain

Almost a year ago, my friend Julie and I met for lunch at a local diner. I ordered a BLT and fried mush. I remember because it was weird but delicious, and because while I was eating, Julie said, “So, um. I decided I’m going to donate my kidney.”

It’s kind of a showstopper. I even put down the bacon for a minute, and I take bacon very seriously.

Julie and her weird friend

We talked about it that day and texted about it over the intervening months. Julie had about a billion medical tests and passed them all. I didn’t tell anyone until last week, when I finally told Paul. It was time.

Julie is in surgery right now. There’s a special flag flying over the hospital; they do that when a living donor is under the knife.

Part of Julie will get on a plane and sit on someone’s lap, and land we-don’t-know-where, and go live in someone else’s body. No idea who they are. They’ll get to graduate college, or attend their son’s wedding, or spend a day at work and go home to be annoyed about the state of the kitchen because family will make you crazy every time.

Julie’s kidney is part of a chain. It is going to someone who had a willing donor, but who wasn’t a match. Theirs goes to someone else in the same situation, and on it goes. Maybe it’s three kidneys. Maybe it’s seventeen. Maybe it’s more.

The kidney will fly commercial, and of all the details, I can’t get over that one. What’s that like in the TSA line? I assume a kidney gets Pre-Check.

All of it is bizarre, and miraculous, and I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.

I’ve tended to get bogged down lately. The news is dreadful. People are sometimes cruel and pretty often selfish. Awful things are happening. All of that is true.

But this other bit is also true. There are human beings deciding to give literal pieces of themselves away for the sake of total strangers.

This incredible chain is being built of organs and science and dedicated doctors, but mostly of the kind of love that somehow takes in humanity, even if it might occasionally struggle with specific humans.

It is astonishing. It breaks my heart wide open, in the best way.

Look what we can do when we choose love. Just look.

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