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The "Wu Word" Blog

February 2019

Strangers

Strangers
 
The room was small
We were smaller
We were strangers
You and I
All of us
We could trust
We could confess
We could share
All these things
Burns and Stings
Our everything
What we say
What we share
Will stay here
Safe and sound
No need to fear
When you are here
You can cry
You can scream
You can ask why
You can ask what this means
No judgment here
I promise
They will never hear
From my lips
Any and all of this
 
This was never mine
This was never yours
There was nothing lost
There was no cost
When nothing and no one
Was even ours
To begin with
There is a longing
A deep belonging
And I miss
All of this
And what was
And no longer is
 
Life is strange
Life is forever
The Game Changer
No guarantee policy
On life’s journey
The people you meet
They will touch you in ways
That will break you
That will make you
Everything everyone fades
Some will stay
Many must go away
We take it each day
As it comes
For we are never promised
Any and all of this
Anything or anyone
 
We are all strangers
Yet not
I will not forget
How we met
We may never see each other again
This may be our very end
Or we could begin
I would like to call you friend
I would like to say you are familiar
The truth is that you are a stranger
We are all strangers 

Cry

The first dead body I ever saw was of my grandfather.  He looked so peaceful after his painful battle with cancer.  He was in a casket that was centered in an enclosed glass room. He looked like he was sleeping. 
 
Tears rolled down my grandmother’s face in fat translucent drops.  All her children hovered around her protectively, trying to comfort her.  Not one of their children were crying, except for one of my uncle’s who had tears in his eyes. 
 
I had been told before the devout Buddhist funeral services, “Do not cry in front of grandma.  You are just going to upset her.  We do not want to upset her.”
 
When I saw my grandmother’s tear-stained face, I did not understand why it would hurt or upset her to show my tears when SHE was crying.  Would she maybe feel some comfort that we were all crying and that she was not alone in her flood of tears, anguish, and despair?  Maybe it would give her a kind of permission to grieve openly?  Did crying necessarily mean grieving?  Don’t we all grieve in different ways based on our culture, upbringing, and, most complicated of all, ourselves? 
 
As I have gotten older, I have attended more funerals and fewer birthdays.  It seems to me that people celebrate their birthdays less and less as they age because it depresses them to get older.  This saddens me because I had always seen birthdays as a celebration of life and a privilege to getting older and even old.  Not all of us are fortunate enough to get older or old.  After all, child-sized caskets are made as well…and, who wants to even think about that? 
 
The two latest funerals I went to were open caskets and so up close and personal that I could reach out and touch their cold skin.  The first funeral I went to that was open casket, I started to tear up and literally feel sick to my stomach like I was going to puke.  My friend had to put her arm around me to comfort me.  As for the most recent funeral, my friend had tears flowing down her face freely that smeared her mascara making her have black inked tears.  She kept saying, “I told myself I was not going to cry.  Now, I am crying.  Now, I am a mess.  I hate crying in front of other people.  I hate crying.”
 
I enveloped her in my arms and said, “It’s okay to cry.  Just cry.” 
 
I continue hearing around me that people have to control or hide their emotions, do not cry, and even sneak off to a secluded area just to cry alone out of shame and solace or privacy and to “collect themselves.”   Suffice to say, I have been in one too many situations where I have just ended up crying by myself.  Sometimes I have cried so much that I am just left completely numb and exhausted with a headache and a river of tears and snot blotted out with a blanket of Kleenex all around me. 
 
The first time I cried in front of someone outside of my family and my closest childhood friends was with a friend that I was growing closer to.  It was after my hip replacement surgery and I was fighting to learn to walk all over again and trying to undo over 30 years of walking wrong.  The physical pain and mental frustration was nearly unbearable in the beginning, and I consider myself to have a fairly high tolerance for pain.  After all, I was steering clear of pain killers and narcotics that made me feel worse that I rather just take on the pain.  She walked in with a bouquet of flowers when I was trying to get up from the wheelchair and the physical and mental pain was finally too much for me to tolerate that I just cried and kept crying.  I had never cried that hard in front of someone outside of my family and childhood friends.  She rushed over to me and wrapped me in her arms and comforted me saying: “Just cry.”   
 
There is something so scary about showing and sharing our absolute worst, our vulnerabilities, our fears, and just us being flawed and imperfect beings.  There is something so honorable being on the receiving end of someone’s tears.  When someone cries in front of me, I consider it the ultimate strength on that person to exposing me to their vulnerabilities and, most of all, that person, trusting me with their worst and their truth.  I consider it my honor and place of privilege to comfort that person and let the person just be and feel all they are feeling to try to heal.   
 
I admit it: I am a big crier.  I cry with Disney movies.  I cry with ANY and all animal movies.  I cry from books.  I cry out of frustration.  I also cry from laughing so hard.  Funny how our laughter and tears are so connected to each other to feel and process such joy and sorrow.  I’ve become even more of a crier as I have gotten older.  I thought it would get easier with getting older in that I wouldn’t give a *hit, but I have become increasingly nostalgic and sentimental.  Things, people, experiences, and just about everything and anything can and has touched, affected, and impacted me even more now than when I was younger because of how aware I am of the meaning deep in them.  Has this also happened to you? 
 
If crying is NOT your default like me, then it’s all good.  Everyone grieves and reacts to challenges, pain, anguish, frustration, etc. in all different ways.  I am just saying that I hope for you to have a place of safety and sanctuary to just be and feel whatever you feel and always remember that you are human.   Do you cry easily?  Do you need to be alone when you cry?  Have you become more emotional as you have grown older?  Were you told growing up not to cry and to control your emotions?  Or, even worse, that ‘boys do not cry’ because it is not ‘manly’?  When was the last time you cried? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;)

BitterSweet

BitterSweet

You said to me
“It is better
To have Lost
Than to Never
Have Loved at all”
 
I do not know
If it hurts more
To Remember
Or
To Forget
 
Believe me
I have no regrets
I would do
It
All over again
 
How can I be bitter
About the end?
When the start
And everything
In between
Was and Is so sweet
It makes me smile
It makes me laugh
It makes me realize
That all of this is worth the while
 
You will ask a million questions
You will seek a million more answers
How everything slipped through your fingers
How the pain still lingers
How you hold on to the good days
How you ask when the worst will go away
 
Now that you are gone
The memories keep on
Rewinding in my mind
Wondering what went wrong
Cursing and embracing time
Everything you feel
And slowly try to heal
 Losses and Gains
Laughter and Tears
Pangs and Pains
Joy and Sorrow
Today and Tomorrow
Here and Now
Life keeps going on
Even when everything went wrong
Even when you think you can’t be strong
You must keep on
 
I say to you:
“Love Breeds Grief
Because when love leaves
It is BitterSweet
It hurts like hell

But I live and love on to tell”

Eyes

Eyes
 
I look in your eyes
The world you have seen
The places you have been
The peace you seek
Your struggles and battles
Your fragile weak
Your strength
Your faith
Your path
Unplanned
Trying to understand
 
I do not know the color
Of your eyes
But I know
They are like none other
They glow
Brighter than ever
That reveal
Cannot conceal
All that is real
All you feel
To try and heal
 
I see in your eyes
They speak truth
And not lies
Your eyes
They say
They show
All you have known
Pain and sorrow
Better tomorrows
Joy and laughter
Young and old
Beautiful eyes

Windows to your soul

DONOR ID # 200083642

In the last week of January 1987, a young 26-year-old male in Long Island was tragically in a hit and run car accident.  He had at least three siblings.  One was definitely a brother.  Another was definitely a sister.  The other sibling remains unknown.  His parents were told that their 26-year-old son had died.  His parents were also told about organ, eye, and tissue donation at a time of unimaginable grief.  No parent should experience their child’s death before their own.  It does not make sense.  It is not supposed to happen.  This is not how life and world is supposed to work.  But, it does.  But, it did.  His father consented that his son’s organs were removed and transplanted/donated to save lives. 
 
On January 30, 1987, I was the recipient of this young man’s kidney. 
 
This was my first kidney transplant.  At 26-year-old, he died.  At 4-years-old going on 5-years-old and after almost two years on dialysis, I lived.  I was given my childhood.  I was given my life.  His parents saved my life.  He saved my life. 
 
But this story is just the beginning.   
 
Fast forward to mid-November 2018.  After an emotional meeting at a transplant support organization of a father sharing how he connected with his daughter’s organ transplant recipients, I thought about my second kidney donor and how the most recent news about 3 years ago that my 4-year-old organ donor at the time of 1995 had sisters who wished to know about and connect with me.    I reached out to the OPO (organ procurement organization) to see if this wish still remained.  It did.  However, before I disconnected with the OPO family coordinator, I found myself asking something that I never thought I would ask and I thought someone else was asking for me: “Do you know if I can find my first organ donor and family?  It was back in 1987.  I was only 4 or 5-years-old.  I was told years ago that the organ donor was a young man from out of state, and that it would be impossible to find him.” 
 
The coordinator replied, “If you can get the ID # on him then we can track him and/or his family down.  Nothing is impossible.” 
 
Completely unexpectedly and unplanned, I began to do some research.  I looked through my massive box of old medical records only to find that these documents were from my second kidney transplant; No luck.  I reached out to my childhood nurses who I reunited with about 6+ years ago if they had any insight; No luck.  I called medical records at the hospital I received my first kidney transplant and the representative said to me: “We can’t help you.  The records are destroyed after 25 years.  This is more than 30 years ago.  Good luck.”  Finally, out of desperation, I sent an email to my pediatric nephrologist.  He responded to me right away and told me to contact the transplant center of my first kidney transplant.
 
It is always who you get.   I ended up getting Maria.
 
I explained to her: “I was only 5-years-old.  If there is anything at all and any morsel of information that you have on my first organ donor, I’ll take it.  I do not expect anything from anyone.  I only hope. “
 
To my complete shock and surprise, Maria said firmly: “I am not getting off this phone until I have you speak with someone who can help you.  I am going to help you.”
 
The majority of people will not go above and beyond for anyone.  The few who do will leave their imprint with you.  You will never forget them and what they did to change your life for the better.  They will completely change your life just by the one seemingly small act of kindness that amounts to the largest impact and ripple effects.  Maria was that person. 
 
Listening to classical music on the phone, I waited at least 15 minutes.  It felt like an eternity.  I heard a click and I thought I would cry that I was disconnected from this sweet and thoughtful woman who was trying to move heaven and earth to help me out.  On the contrary, I heard a friendly woman on the phone who identified herself as a transplant coordinator.   She confirmed, “There’s a record on you.”
 
“What?!  Really?  That was so many years ago, though!” I exclaimed.
 
“It does not matter.  It is always there.”
 
I held my breath and asked slowly, “Is there anything on my organ donor?”
 
I heard the clickety click of keyboard keys.   The pause seemed long and drawn out.  The transplant coordinator finally said, “He was 26-years-old.  Motor accident.  Long Island.  There’s a donor id # on him of 200083642.  That’s all I have, Mary.”
 
That’s all I needed.  I gave all the information to the OPO family coordinator.  It was out of my hands.
 
Two days ago, I received contact from the OPO family coordinator that my organ donor was found as well as his brother.  I tentatively asked: “Can you tell me my first organ donor’s name or are we still identifying him by the donor ID #200083642?”
 
“Brian,” she confirmed. 
 
“Brian,” I whispered.
 
I said the name.  I said it again and held it on my tongue as though it was sacred.   I said it again as if I was saying a prayer.  I tasted the name.   A name.  No longer a number.  No longer just a donor ID # of 200083642.  He would have been 58-years-old now if he was still alive.   What would he have been like?  What did he look like?  What did he wear?  How did he smell?  How did his laugh sound?  What were his hobbies?  What would his job have been?  Would he have been married and had children or grandchildren?  Was he looking down on me when I was a little girl?  Could he maybe have seen me as his daughter that he never had?  Donor ID #200083642. Brian. 
 
I do not know what called me to find my first organ donor.  I do not know why it took me 32 years to try to find Brian.  I do not know what I will say to his brother who is apparently eager to hear from me or hopes to contact me first.   I do not know if I can muster up the strength and courage to tell his brother that Brian’s kidney failed and I had to have a second kidney transplant.  I do know that I feel such a strong connection to them and to my second organ donor family, though I have never met them.  I do know that my childhood was given back to me because of Brian.  I do know that I am alive. 
 
 
I celebrate and honor my first organ donor on the anniversary of Brian’s death and my life with my first kidney transplant from him.  People have said to me that I should ‘leave well enough alone’ and that I have to be careful of scams and scam artists and move on with my life.  Just because I dug into the past to find my first organ donor and his family does not mean that I am living in or dwelling on the past.  Rather, it gives me closure or a peace of mind to understand my past better to move forward in life and be a better person.  I believe the point of the past is to live in the present and to move forward in the future.  What do you believe?  Do you think the past is important? Have you ever felt called upon finding out and understanding something much later on in your life?  Have you ever experienced that it was always about who you get in life who was willing to and had went the extra for you rather than the bare minimum?  Have you ever felt a connection with someone you never met?  How will I ever thank someone for saving my life? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary 
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