The new driver's license that arrived in the mail came with the Gift of Life invitation from the state of Michigan.
What can I do to help another life in the event this one reaches the end of the road?
What parts of this old body are worth salvaging?
We hear stories of heroic gifts of life that keep one person alive after another one has died. Still when it comes to our own heart, lungs, kidneys, skin tissue, etc., the generosity takes on a different significance.
These are the parts that we have been dealing with since birth. It's like the old car that still runs, but for how much longer? Both car and body have a lot of mileage on them. Would parts of me be of any value to someone else or are they like the car's starter, that is not turning over as readily as it was and is perhaps just about to give up the ghost?
Still, when you sort it all out, organ donation well may be the greatest deed in a lifetime. As personal gifts go, this is the ultimate. All of our lives we try valiantly to give to other people, at Christmas, at birthdays, and just to be generous in our own way with gifts, our possessions, or kindness to others.
But, this decision is indeed a biggie, one to be handled with the utmost thought.
It's like the letter from the Michigan Department of State reminds: “Your decision may save a life!” It adds that thousands of Michigan residents are waiting for a transplant operation and that each one depends on someone like me to donate organs and tissues.
What greater gift of kindness can there be than to have rekindled someone's eyesight, to pass your heart on to someone who desperately needs it, to know that your liver or kidneys may bring new hope for life to a stranger?
There's a line on the back of the driver's license where donors can list the specific organs they would like to give. (Of course it is in such small print no one could ever read it without a magnifying glass.)
Getting down to specifics, let's see, what would my choices be in the order of preference? The eyes always have had good reports and led me around the world, so they are an option. Certainly facial tissue should be acceptable since the big lift nearly two years ago.
The decision, of course, depends on the evaluation of the medical staff.
Fortunately, according to Dorothy Hinkle, age doesn't have the bearing on body donors as it once did. Mrs. Hinkle is a volunteer who has given numerous talks to service clubs and other organizations throughout Michigan on behalf of the Gift of Life program that is headquartered in Ann Arbor.
Mrs. Hinkle stresses, “People are living longer and better. Today there is no age limit.”
She urges people who wish to donate to be sure to tell their families. “It doesn't matter what's on your driver's license,” she said. “When you die, your body belongs to your family. It is important to tell the family your wishes.”
Mrs. Hinkle has been interested in the donor program since the death of her husband, Ronald.
“We had talked about it but never wrote anything down. When he died unexpectedly with a heart attack, I decided that is what he would want and so I gave everything that could be used.”
She was particularly gratified, when she heard through the eye bank staff of the appreciation of the people who received her husband's eyes.
My Gift of Life acceptance card is in the mail, and the license is also signed. Life has been good to me for many years. Sharing it is the least that I can do.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.