I didn't always want to be a donor. When I was in my teens, I didn't want to even think about it. What teen wants to think they won't live forever? And in my early 20s, I marked "yes" on my license, but only for certain organs. I wanted to keep my skin so that when they showed me in the casket, I still looked okay (I know, vain much?).
Then when I was 24, my mom developed brain cancer. She gained alot of weight from the steroids; lost her hair, which grew back in tufts, and curly; she was so swollen and her skin bruised from the steroids. When she passed away 13 months after diagnosis, she didn't look like her. I brought her favorite dress to the funeral home, along with a wig and fake eyelashes. But at the wake, when I looked at her in her casket, she didn't look a thing like "mom". And that's when I realized - this body that's left over when we're gone, that's not us - that's not our spirit or our soul. It's the temporary home we have until we move on somewhere else, and just like when we move from one home to another in our lives, we don't really have a use for the old one - but someone else might, and that's why I decided to become a full-out organ donor if the time ever came where my family would have to make that decision.
I admit, I don't visit the cemetary often. I go there once in awhile to make sure it's clean, but I don't like going there. She's not there - only her body is. And honestly - and I know this is going to be gross to say out loud - all I envision there is a decomposing body, not the beautiful woman my mother was.
It has made me think quite a bit about what I'd want when I die. When we were in New Orleans, one of the cemetaries had a section of plaques, where it was simply a memorial plaque. I liked that - a place where someone could go to remember me without having to stand over my buried body.
So this is what I've come up with:
- I'd like as much of my body to be donated as possible - any part of me that can help someone should go. And whatever is left over, if it will help benefit science or the cure of anything, I hope they can use the rest of me to help further causes.
- I don't want a procession to a funeral home or cemetary - I just want a church ceremony and some kind words spoken.
- I'd like a plaque somewhere, where I can be remembered. I don't know where. Maybe donate money somewhere in my name and a plaque can go there. So someday when you're shopping at the mall in the Allie wing, you'll remember me. ;) Just so I'm remembered, but not with a gravestone.
- I don't want a typical funeral dinner or lunch after the ceremony. I want everyone to gather at a local bar and have a few drinks and some of my favorite foods (cornbeef and pizza) and tell some funny stories about the good times we all had. I won't say don't cry, because Lord knows I'm always a fountain of tears, but definitely think about the great times. There was nothing better after Mom died than hearing all of the good memories people had of her. And I'll never forget, at the luncheon after my best friend's funeral when I was in 8th grade, all of us kids joking and laughing. It made the day a little easier - and that's what I want - I want people to be happy they knew me.
And when I'm gone, you can have my organs. Because I want someone else to have the opportunity to make the same great memories I hope I did.
Visit http://organdonor.gov/ to learn more, and sign up to be an organ donor.