George, from North Dakota. Here for a return trip after a failed stem cell transplant to treat his multiple myeloma. Joel, also from North Dakota: kidney transplant 5 weeks ago. Having a few complications but should go home within the week. Judy. Here on a three year check-up for her heart transplant. Drove in from Illinois with her husband Dale and then will be traveling this summer.
The people and faces out on the porch at the Gift of Life House have changed. But the stories haven't. We have all been drawn or directed here for the same reason: our health. For each of us, our life journeys have been detoured, interupted and intruded upon by any one of a variety of uninvited challenges to our otherwise, up to this point, "normal" lives. And we come here to try to either meet and overcome those challenges to help prolong our lives, or for some, to ease the pain and transition at the end of our lives.
For me it has been one year. July 7, 2009; my liver transplant. For me, it has gone well and things look good, at least they seem good to me. We will find out more this week. Had I not been directed to this place, the Dr. said that by now, assuming I was still alive, I would probably be in a wheel chair. But I am still here. I am still walking. And there are so many things that I am still able to do. I count myself blessed. I have the opportunity to still share and enjoy so much of this human experience. And it is here, in this place called Mayo, that I have learned and am still learning so much about what we do with that time we are given. Because when you come here, you confront each day the reality that this life does come to an end.
I am one of the lucky ones here. I am not on a time table, at least not yet. I haven't been given the countdown of how many months or years I have left. But last night I sat with George. They are not giving him much more time. His stem cell transplant has failed. His cancer is back. Even here at Mayo, the place of so many miracles, they are running out of answers, and George is running out of days. He knows it. His wife knows it. And yet we sat talking and laughing last night. He is an avid golfer. We shared our love of golf. He can't wait to play again, hopefully next week. "What a great year I've had", he told me. His transplant was a year ago, and he had a wonderful, pain free year. He has no regrets. He is not despondent. It's just how it is. You can tell that he senses his time here is almost done. He'll be able to play a few more rounds, literally, but that's about it. No fear, no anger, no remorse. Just an awareness and acceptence that his journey is coming to a close.
He is now one of my teachers. One of the many I have met here. Sharing with me lessons of how to live and enjoy my life while knowing and seeing, at least out of the corner of my eye, that the road does have an end to it. But it's not a bad thing--it's just there. And its not about what we take with us, certainly not the physical things. It's about how we travel that road. The love of family and friends. Making a positive difference in the world and other people's lives. Following and acting upon those intuitive, spiritually driven moments to do those little things. Stop and talk to your neighbor. Drop in on a friend or loved one unexpectedly. Take that trip you have been putting off. Get in that round of golf.
If nothing else, I have learned that I can either sit here and bemoan all that has gone wrong or that I no longer have in my life, or I can appreciate and take advantage of all that is still here and available to me. Right at this moment, I am back in school, here at the Gift House. Learning more lessons. I wonder who I will meet on the porch tonight? Love to all, Rick