A friend of mine and fellow artist showed me one of her paintings that will be featured in a show this Spring. The vantage point was from above looking down on a street somewhere in Europe. The street arches away to the right and the buildings in perfect perspective line the curve. The angle is enough to give you vertigo. It is a great painting with lights placed so that the eye uses them as stepping stones to move through the painting.
What is amazing is that she manipulated a fickle medium – watercolor- which consists of gum arabic and pigment with a brush made of animal hair to depict this very believable scene on a piece of paper made of cotton rag. All the elements used are pretty simple but what occurred was a transformation.
When my son moved to Colorado he waited a while to get his drivers license. He had the tendency to procrastinate over many things, and the more mundane and basic the more he tended to procrastinate. I think the license is down in the room with his belongings that remain. I don’t know the date on it. His picture,however, is of a sober young man with his hair pulled back into a pony tail. I don’t know when the license was to expire, haven’t looked at that.
On the license there was a little red heart emblem. It means that while filling out the application he checked the little box that said organ donor. I have no idea what his thoughts were at the time. I know what I thought when I checked a similar box for my license. It was simple, if when I die there is anything salvageable that someone else can use, then please by all means, do so. Given the nature of the man, I assume he probably thought something similar, assuming all the while that that time was somewhere in the far and distant future. And as we all know, when that time comes, we will not be aware of what is being done with those salvageable parts anyway.
He didn’t stand on a platform and place a hand on his chest and solemnly swear to be a selfless and generous person. He simply checked a box.
The fact is though, he was a selfless and generous person. That is the life he lived. He thought about others and he behaved in a manner towards them that exemplified that. He in manners big and small was a person to do the right thing regardless of whether it was the popular thing or something that would give him any credit. There was a confidence in him that spoke of the fact that he knew who he was. I can’t say he did not struggle like all of us do with our private demons – he would not be human had he not, but he did not let them stop him from doing what he, in viewing his course, thought was correct.
When my husband found the drivers license that awful day at the hospital and saw the little red heart printed there we knew we had no other choice. We had felt it would be the best thing to allow his organs to be donated, it was at that point our decision to make ultimately – our son’s voice being stilled, but this little red emblem gave us the go ahead. The paperwork process for that decision is not an easy one. The people who take care of those things handled us with kid gloves. We in a little windowless room answering questions about our son’s health and life habits, while he lay, his body being kept alive down the hall.
We received a letter yesterday from a recipient of one of his organs. It was a letter of thanks.
My son did not die so that others might live, the fact that he took such good care of himself and that those who tended him after his fall were able to keep his heart pumping to allow his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys to survive are the heros for those who received his organs. The doctors who told us that we needed to allow our son to infarct instead of “pulling the plug” had the tough job. The surgeons who had to face our son’s perfect body to “harvest” the organs were those who are made of steel. Then there were the surgeon’s whose joy it was to perform the transplants and get to face the hopeful families. The volunteer who stayed with our boy during that surgery, for the sake of his dignity and honor, she embodies his spirit.
I am painting a picture here out of the simplest of elements, that started with a check mark in a box on an application. My son did what many of us have done and forgotten about, something we carry in our wallet and never think about coming to fruition.
The fact that the picture that evolves from this is so dramatic in scope is beyond the intent of the people involved on the front end. Art has so many intangible elements.
We on this side of things, as the viewer, bring to it elements it did not originally contain by the person that started it.
Are we glad that our son decided to be a donor? Yes. Are we happy for those who received his organs? Of course. The paint is on the paper. The brush strokes have been made. It will not and cannot be undone.
Would we have preferred another picture? Yes.