Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Closer Look in the Magic Mirror

     Going to Disney World (and Land) is unlike any other vacation experience for a variety of reasons.  One of the most visible is that people are encouraged to make a public declaration of their reason for being there.  The parks distribute buttons which indicate what a person is celebrating... first visit, birthday, family reunion, anniversary, or honeymoon.  The last of these is also frequently made apparent by mouse ears or a shirt indicating "bride" and "groom."  All of these proclamations are encouraged by Disney, and if you are celebrating something they don't have a specific button for, their generic one allows guests to write on the button to explain what the special occasion is.  So, my wife, son, and I each made a button that said something about my lung transplant.

     We didn't do this in order to be congratulated by strangers, physically and metaphorically patted on the back, or given accolades, even though all of these things did happen.  The intent of the buttons was to spread awareness of the importance of organ donation, so whenever someone noticed what it said and struck up a conversation, we could encourage them to become a donor.  This happened most often with the park entry security staff, who looked through my backpack and my wife's and frequently noticed the buttons pinned to them.  

     Two of the dominant themes of Disney World attractions are "dreams" and "wishes."  Each time I heard these words used, especially during Jiminy Cricket's narration of the firework's display surrounding the castle at the Magic Kingdom, an unspoken truth burned in the back of my mind:  I'm living a dream, standing there with my family.  I had a wish come true, and am now doing things that I couldn't have done without the lung transplant which saved my life.  But there is a family somewhere who had to live through a nightmare so that my dream could come true.  They dealt with a reality that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  

     I chose not to share this with my wife in the moment, deciding there was a better time and place to tell her about this emotional undercurrent.  Alone with my thoughts, spectacular colors exploding in the sky, I knew that as much as the family may be consoled by the fact that their loved one's death had a huge impact on my life and hopefully others, it does not bring back the person they are still grieving for.  

     I never want to lose sight of what they dealt with and who they lost as I revel in moments both large and small.  I will always remember that my miraculous second chance was the opposite of a "dream" or a "wish" for my donor family, and honor them by writing, speaking, and volunteering for Gift of Life Michigan for the rest of my life.  I want my donor's legacy to include a far-reaching impact-- toi improve and save the lives of as many people as possible.  The wishes and dreams my donor will never see come to fruition should, at the very least, give others and opportunity to live a life they couldn't have experienced otherwise. I received two lungs from my donor, but I am determined to honor that person by being his or her voice as well.

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