I have a fair bit to write about after a rather incredible weekend so this may well turn into quite a long un.
On Saturday, LLTGL was invited to a ceremony by a fellow charity named BODY (British Organ Donor Society). I will now shamefully admit that I hadn’t paid much attention; I knew they were dedicating a tree to our charity as recognition and I knew that Oli and I had said we’d go as let’s face it if a fellow charity is recognising your work then that’s the least you can do. What I had not realised is that the day consisted of so much more than that. That it was an annual church service of thanksgiving for donors, that it had been going on for 22 years, and that it would have an incredibly strong emotional impact on me.
The service was held in Wimpole National Trust (which is a beautiful place incidentally) in Cambridge so it was a fairly long drive and I felt a bit hot and bothered by the time I got there. We found the marquee fairly quickly and introduced ourselves to the small gathering there. I wandered off to look at the display boards set up round the outskirts of the marquee, and it began to hit me just what kind of day this was. There were little cards with messages from donor families to their loved ones and from recipients to the donors they’ll never meet stuck up in rows. There were lists of names, hundreds of names, of donors, people who are now gone but thanks to whom other people are still here, stuck up on another board. When you are this side of the transplant fence you of course think of “your donor” but they are anonymous to you, and this made it all so much more real that someone was dead and that was why I was still alive.
I am not religious in any sense of the word, however the service was indescribably beautiful. The candle ceremony was particularly poignant; where from one large central candle six smaller ones were lit, symbolising the gift passed onto six others...then the large candle was taken away.
People were invited to get up and share stories. The chairman of BODY read out a poem he’d written his wife during an extremely difficult time (they lost their son and donated his organs) and spoke gently about how important it is to remember those still there, and not get lost in the grief of those who have gone. Moved to tears by his bravery, and following another recipient, I got up and said a few words. I would like to consider myself quite an expert speaker by now, but my voice was shaking and I wanted to sit down fairly swiftly. I just wanted the amazing families gathered to realise just a bit how important that decision which all unites them has been to me and my family.
Tears flowed throughout the service from all around, however there was somehow a very positive air as well. I think the strangest thing for me was being a minority – a recipient – surrounded by those responsible for people like me still being here. It was a truly humbling experience.
After the service we walked a short way through the park to see our Tree. The Charity owns an avenue of Trees and ours is number 43. The Trees in this avenue are dedicated to individuals or organisations that make a difference in the world of Transplantation and Organ Donation. To be recognised by this lovely, personal and humble charity made me very proud indeed.
This is an annual ceremony, and I will be back, as it made me reflect on my donor in a way I have never done before, and I intend to make an annual pilgrimage to support BODY and to think about my donor family as I took so so much away from that day. It is an open ceremony, so if you are interested in going at some point contact me for further details.
This is a ridiculously long blog already. I am going to have to write about the Hydro Active, sorry, the Adidas challenge another time (perhaps later). Suffice to say 53 MINUTES BABY!! Now surely that is worth some sponsorship...