This may be one of the hardest posts I’ll ever write, but also a very satisfying one.
Today I was privileged to spend the day in Phoenix, attending a couple of grief workshops, a lunch, and a Remembrance Event for organ and tissue donors. The Arizona Donor Registry puts on this event to recognize and honor the donors since the previous event.
I attended two workshops this morning. The first one was for people who had lost their spouse. There were only three of us in the session, so instead of following the syllabus, the moderators just let us each talk about our loss. I *thought* I recognized the presenters, but when I began talking about Toni, and how I had been in a similar session before (in 2010, in support of Char’s bereavement when Jeremy died), they said they remembered us, and were very sad to see me back. I’m glad I went, though, because I was able to speak of my experiences, both with Toni and with Jeremy, in a way that seemed to help one of the other participants. I guess she thought so, too – at least, she asked for my email address so she could stay in touch.
The second workshop was called “Journaling to Heal.” I have been keeping a journal since Toni’s death, but it’s been all about what I’m feeling at the time I’m writing, or about a dream I had, or something similar. The session presenters gave me a whole other perspective on the activity, though – writing *to* Toni, instead of *about* her. I looked at the suggestion sheet they handed out, and to be honest, I don’t know if I really want to go there. It doesn’t take much to bring the tears anyway, and I wonder if I can handle deliberately provoking memories – even good ones. Just as an example, one of their suggestions is, “I heard _____ and it reminded me of you…” That happens all the time – random songs on the radio, whether they had a special meaning for us or not, can bring a good cry. One in particular is Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck“, which is about a father’s way of dealing with the loss of his son. The first time i heard it on the radio, I was driving Toni’s truck, and I literally had to pull off the road so I could cry. It took me several months before I could listen to it and stay even halfway calm; even now it’s hard to listen to (the song came out in the spring of 2013).
And so I ask myself, “Do I *really* want to deliberately relive these memories, when just a song, or randomly opening a photo folder on my computer can hit me so hard?” Maybe in time… But I’m keeping the suggestion list, and the journal book they gave me.
After the second workshop, we broke for lunch. All of the food was provided by the Donor Network, and it was plentiful and delicious. I ate too much, as usual. I had a nice conversation with the people at whose table I sat, and somehow we started talking about diets. I told her I’d diet on my own nickel; when the food is free I’ll eat as much as I want. 😉
The final event of the day was a remembrance of each of the “Donor Heroes.” Each family had been asked to provide a photo and a blurb, both of which would be put into a remembrance book. These books were handed out this afternoon. Each donor’s name was then called out, and a family representative went forward to receive a Hero’s Certificate and a medallion. This is the medallion:
And this is the certificate:
Of course, none of us *wanted* to be there, but it’s nice to know that our loved ones are remembered by people other than family and friends.
One other note: Toni’s (and my) decision to be a donor was reinforced back in 2010, when Jeremy died. I didn’t know he was a donor until the Donor Registry people came to his hospital room to talk to Char and me about it. Up until that point, I had thought that marking the little ‘X’ on your driver’s license was sufficient to guarantee you would be a donor under the right circumstances; we found out that’s not necessarily so. So both of us registered with the Donor Registry, which *is* sufficient. If you’re a registered Donor, no one can dispute that decision after your death. So I want to thank Jeremy, again, for pointing us in this direction. As a result of his and Toni’s deaths, several people have become registered Donors. You can, too.
In fact, this might be the cause I’ve been looking for to go along with my Jeep adventure.