Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2 x 2 = wonderful

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Canadian Blood Services announced on February 12 that it has officially launched the national Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry.

This is wonderful news for families waiting for kidney transplants. Research has shown that living donor kidneys are often more successful than cadaveric transplants and patients' families and friends are encouraged to be tested for compatibility. Unfortunately, many patients are unable to find compatible donors among family or friends and thus remain on the transplant waiting list, sometimes for many years, until a suitable match becomes available from a deceased donor.

The registry already has 23 pairs of donors/recipients registred through pilot programs in Ontario, Alberta, and BC and other provinces will be added shortly. [It is unclear whether Quebec will be included in the registry. The province maintains an agency called Héma-Québec which operates a parallel but separate blood and human tissue service.]

This national registry will open up a much wider pool of willing and eager donors who can more quickly be matched with closely-matched recipients, it will enable those remaining on the waiting list to receive cadaveric kidneys more quickly, it may offer opportunities for altruistic donors who are not paired with anyone, and will ensure a more equitable access to donor organs across the country.

I had begun the testing process to see if I was a possible donor match for Chris but because of his unstable health, he was withdrawn from the waiting list waiting list (don't ask!). If his health had been stable and I had ultimately been found not to be a match for him, I'm sure that Chris would have consented to us being placed on the Paired Exchange Registry. A pair of strangers somewhere in Canada would have possibly been our match. What a lovely thought... what a wonderful gift to give and to receive!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Close encounters of the Canuck celebrity kind

Inspired by a recent rambling conversation with a friend that included a chapter on celebrities* we had met, here's my list (to the best of my recollection):
* Readers will notice a preponderance of political and public broadcaster personalities - that's what you get for living in the nation's capital!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The ghost of Christmas yet to come

Every once in awhile, you have those moments when you take a deep breath because you know you're about to go through an experience that will stop the world from spinning - if only for that singular moment - and then you exhale.

Sometimes those moments pass and, in retrospect, aren't as life-changing as you think they're going to be. Sometimes they leave you feeling quite differently than you had anticipated. Sometimes they're strange but you're not quite sure what to make of them and so you squirrel them away for future contemplation.

I had one of those moments just before New Year's when I walked through the cemetery to visit Chris' grave. I took a different route than usual and was walking towards his grave from behind when I suddenly saw that his headstone had finally been installed. My breath caught in my throat and my step wavered for a moment for I knew what I was about to see: my own name.

Despite having spent months e-mailing back and forth with the cemetery representative who very patiently indulged my micro-management of endless and minute aesthetic details like font sizes and 'white space' of the headstone that I had designed, I was about to look upon the real thing. The key facts, literally set in stone.

It’s an extraordinary and difficult concept to try and grasp: one’s own mortality. I can’t. Despite having experienced the loss of so many loved ones in recent years, I still can’t really wrap my head around the idea of my own death. I guess that’s a good sign! Obviously it will happen some day. Hopefully I’ll be ready for it – or unaware of it happening. Who knows…

And so there I was. My name cut into the shimmering black granite below Chris’. Waiting patiently, without time, beyond time…


Monday, February 9, 2009

Boozy librarians & old card catalogues

Contrary to the long-standing prim image of those in our profession, most of the librarians I went to grad school with were a pretty boozy bunch (yours truly included) and from what I've seen and heard, that trend has continued. Of course having the university's grad students' pub conveniently located a hop, skip, and stumble down the hall from our classrooms might have had something to do with upping the stats!

In tribute to those wonderful albeit fuzzy memories of days - and nights - gone by, here's the perfect gift for the oenophile librarian or the bibliophile wine-lover... a beautiful old card catalogue recycled as a wine cabinet!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Turning the page...

As I've mentioned previously, I've been thinking about my writing and this blog and my journal and my journey, and I had a bit of a revelation that's helped me to make a decision.

Last week I finished reading one of the several books I had on the go: The Alchemy of Loss. (It was on my Christmas list but didn't make it under the tree, I guess Santa thought it was a bit grim!) Now before you get all worried because you think I'm reading too many 'widow' books, read on...

This remarkable book was written by a young Canadian woman, Abigail Carter, whose husband Arron died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She wrote her story as a way to recover, a way through the fog of her widowhood, a remembrance for her young children who will have very faint memories of their father by the time they're old enough to understand what their mother struggled through… As she wryly notes, she wrote the book that she had hoped to find when she was struggling through the early years of her loss.

What especially struck me about Abigail’s story was the raw honesty of her writing. She talks candidly about her ever-changing roller coaster of emotions, ranging from crushing love to raging frustration with her children; gratefulness and anger at her parents; disappointment and eagerness in her eventual albeit tentative re-entry into the dating world; disillusionment and gratitude with her husband’s company legal representative; and so on across the cast of many people who helped her along her journey.

I couldn’t help but wonder what they all thought when reading passages about themselves in this book. Whether Abigail told all these people what she had written or gave them a preview before the book was published is unknown; she does thank many of them in her introduction. But I was impressed by her unflinching honesty. She told her own story – in all its pain and rage and love and helplessness and appreciation and humour and oddness. It was her way forward and she knew that the people who meant most to her would stick by her, for better or for worse.

When I began this blog, I thought it would be a communal place where Chris’ loved ones could bring their stories and we could share our memories and our sadness. But in the end that wasn't really what it was about… it was about me and my journey. Because I knew that many of Chris’ friends and family were reading this blog, I kept many things to myself (or to my counsellor!). But in recent months, I’ve found myself feeling constrained in my writing by the knowledge of who many of my readers are. I didn’t want to upset people or worry them but I’ve grown frustrated by that self-imposed embargo.

I considered abandoning this blog and perhaps beginning another one – anonymously, without notice - where I could express my pain and joy without judgement or fear of causing worry among loved ones. Or I could simply continue self-editing and use my journal – and my counsellor – to breathe… or both… or neither…

But then I read Abigail’s story and I realized that I was tired of worrying about what everyone else thought and that I just wanted to tell my truth. So dear readers, loved ones and strangers, you may read a different shade of me now. You may read things that are upsetting or worrisome. You may also read things that are amusing and deeply personal. If you know me, you'll recognize me - if you don't, you'll get to know me.

Fear not, I’m not falling into a dark pit of despair. Like everyone, I have dark days and light nights interspersed with humdrum errands and busy appointments. You mustn’t fuss and fret. I wouldn’t have thought it possible a year and a half ago but look how far I’ve travelled. I’m making up the roadmap as I go along so let me stretch my legs - I couldn’t have come this far without you.