Saturday, April 26, 2008

"A gift is a gift, no matter how long it lasts."

"Grief comes in waves," wrote Joan Didion in her remarkable book The Year of Magical Thinking.

It can also blindside you when you least expect it. I had been thinking of writing about the spate of babies bursting into my world this year, the circle of life, all that kind of stuff, but I'm putting that aside for another day.

As I sit here writing my eyes are filled with tears, my throat tight and my heart filled with anguish and sadness. Why? Because this morning I turned a page in the Focus section of the Globe & Mail and read words that broke my heart, unleashing a torrent of emotions and memories of Chris' death.

Amelia Bruce died on April 5. She was 27 years old.

I didn't know Amelia but last August her grandfather, Toronto writer Stephen Gauer, wrote a very personal and touching article in the G&M about his experience as a living kidney donor for Amelia. He wrote lovingly of his sunny, resilient, smart, and outgoing grand-daughter and how she lived her life like any young woman, despite - or perhaps because of - her kidney failure.

Amelia received a donor kidney in 1997 but in 2005 it began to fail and she faced the prospect of going back on dialysis and a wait of up to eight years for a second transplant. Her grandfather volunteered to be tested and was found to be a good match and on June 26, 2007 they both went into surgery. The transplant was a success but months later something went wrong and Amelia began to experience a series of setbacks that frequently sent her to the hospital. In recent months though her health seemed to stabilize and she was looking forward to moving into her own apartment which her grandfather was painting for her. But then it all went terribly wrong.

Stephen Gauer's follow-up article in today's G&M is entitled Goodbye Amelia. It is a raw and heart-breaking love letter to a little girl and a young woman. It's also a personal recount of his own journey alongside Amelia watching her growing up and what it meant to say goodbye to his grand-daughter. He responds to those who asked him if he regretted giving her his kidney, "I believe with all my heart and soul that if donating a kidney to Amelia made her life better, easier, less painful, more hopeful, happier, less exhausting for even one day out of those 284, it was worth it."

As you can imagine, many thoughts crashed through my mind as I read this heart-breaking news today. So many similarities resounded, odd little things like Amelia's mother hearing her alarm ringing on and on and discovering her daughter dead in bed. The night before he died, Chris had set his alarm for an early wake-up. When I went back to the apartment later the next afternoon to pick up some clothes, I froze in my tracks upon hearing the clock-radio blindly roaring to an empty bed. It had been playing all day.

The article recounts Amelia's mother's anguished protests, "This is completely wrong. This is bullshit."; Amelia's memorial service where over 130 people came to share their grief, love, and loss; Stephen's wonderment at the unexpected serendipity of gaining a delightful grand-daughter when he met and fell in love with Amelia's grandmother; all these experiences touched off a firestorm in my own heart...

Memories of my own horror at realizing that the moment we knew would some day come had actually come far too soon; trying to reach Chris' parents and not knowing what I was going to say when they answered the phone; the hundreds of kind, supportive people who came to Chris' visitation and memorial service; and some of the strange things people said to me out of discomfort or tactlessness.

I'm drained by this day. I've cried for Amelia, for Chris, for myself. So many unfulfilled dreams, so much pain, so much love.

1 comment:

alison said...


Alison here, Amelia's mum. Thank you for this...i was quite touched by your story andyour comments about Amelia. I hope your days are getting easier. We never really "move on" do we? Just go somewhere different...

sll best,