I paused the other day while scrunching up newspapers to start the fire. I do this often when an article catches my eye and I get sucked into reading it. Michelle laughs whenever she notices a long pause in my newsprint crumpling. I enjoy reading old newspaper articles. It terrifies me that I might have read them before and yet there is often no hint of recollection at their contents. We are barraged by information and I believe once you hit 50 it becomes difficult for your gray matter to archive much more. It would be nice if you could just add another terabyte external hard drive, but alas, until we hit the age of Johnny Mnemonic I believe my hard drive storage capacity has just about reached its limit.

Our friend Lorraine tells us that she often notices that Bill does this same pausing when he is crumpling up newspapers to start their fire. It’s one of the many joys of wood heat. Currently I am going through papers from 2008. And yes, I do keep a supply on hand and use my “First In, First Out” inventory management strategy when dispatching them into the fire. Having a horse barn with no current equine residents allows me this luxury of newspaper archiving, but because they do ultimately get used as fire starters this is NOT hoarding.

The August 22nd, 2008 Ottawa Citizen contained a story about a young woman who had died of leukemia. She had had a bone marrow transplant, which had extended her life and she had written a letter of gratitude to the anonymous donor who had given her such a wondrous gift.

In her letter she wrote, “I can thank the doctors, nurses and the other staff of the transplant team, but I never truly thanked the biggest hero – my anonymous marrow donor somewhere in the world who made the choice to join a registry.”

I find events and topics in my life generally happen in aggregate and this was no exception. In December I read several stories about local organ donations, but in those stories the donors knew the people receiving the organs. Then early in January a good friend of ours let us know that she had just donated a kidney, anonymously.

This is a significant offer to consider, let alone actually undertake. She came for dinner a few weeks later and we cooked some of her favourite Indian-inspired dishes to let her know that we are in awe of what she’d done. She assured us that she hadn’t done it for the “glory” and had actually considered not telling anyone (other than her husband) about it. But she felt weird not sharing something so significant with her friends, and we were glad that she told us.

As a parent I have always been ready to donate an organ to my children. And not just one that I’ve got a couple of, like a kidney, or one that will grow back, like a liver. Nope, at this stage of my life, a rich and satisfying one for which I am extremely grateful, I’d be ready for the whole heart/lung thing if it was called for. I don’t even know if I’m a match in terms of being able to donate such a thing, but I’m ready for it regardless.

Speaking of hearts, it reminds me of a quote that Michelle likes by Elizabeth Stone; “Making the decision to have a child–it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Michelle heard Barack Obama paraphrase it one time and it really resonated with her in terms of how much you can worry and fret about your children, even when they are all grown up and living away from you.

I understand there is a process you can go through where you commit to donate an organ to someone you don’t know and in turn your loved one would get bumped up on the list to get an organ that they need. This is a remarkable and admirable process, but there is still that connection to one of the individuals who ultimately benefits from your donation.

Nope, there is something pretty special about someone who donates an organ to someone they don’t even know. They know that the recipient of their kidney, for example, is going to have a life changing result. From spending most of their time in a hospital on dialysis, to a life free of dependence on a machine. As someone who lives off-grid and is constantly aware of the fleeting nature of the electricity grid, I would find this condition most disconcerting.

We have always considered our friend to be an amazing, generous and wonderful person but it turns out that she is really quite exceptional. While many Canadians give up organs for donations, last year only 18 people in Canada gave up a kidney for a stranger. Eighteen people in a country of 33+ million. That’s pretty exceptional. We feel very fortunate to call this outstanding person a friend. I can only hope that some of her generosity rubs off on me.

Our friend’s generosity inspired me to search out more information on organ donation programs. I just registered to give up my organs when I die. This used to be a simple process of signing an organ donation card that you kept in your wallet with your Driver’s License or Health Card. But now in Ontario you have to do it online. http://www.ontario.ca/health-and-wellness/organ-and-tissue-donor-registration I just hope the computers aren’t down at the moment when they have the opportunity to harvest my organs!

As a taxpayer I am infinitely grateful to our friend who has saved our universal health insurance plan hundreds of thousands of dollars on her kidney recipient’s dialysis costs. Now this money can be used for other procedures. On behalf of the person who received her kidney I think it would be impossible to express the gratitude she deserves for such a selfless act of generosity. On behalf of all Canadians I am so proud of her contribution to building such a great country, and one that isn’t defined solely by our ability to win round circles of precious metals on ice-covered surfaces.

As I watch the news I am constantly appalled at what humans do to each other. The weapons we have created to inflict pain and suffering on each other is despicable. Books have been written, whole areas of studies at higher institutions have been created to try and get to the bottom of what evil lurks at the hearts of men. And yet sometimes one hears of such a story that renews your faith in humankind. An act of such overwhelming humanity. An act that reminds us of the greatness we humans are still capable of.

(There’s an interesting article about kidney donation here; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/would-you-donate-your-kidney-to-a-stranger/article4287170/?page=all)

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wagons o veggiesMichelle’s Note: Cam and I have begun making plans for this year’s CSA. If you live nearby and would like to be a part of our CSA this year, please check out our website; http://sunflowerfarm.ca/