A Different Kind of Giving

I've always known, on some level, that should my brother need a kidney, one of mine is his. He's always been adamant that he'd never ask, but dialysis, which started last summer, has been disastrous.
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I went to my brother's for Christmas Eve, a family tradition that goes back for years and years. It was the first time we'd seen each other since we got the good-to-go donation news, and we celebrated in our usual, laid-back style: a high five. We're not demonstrative or overtly mushy -- but it was a heartfelt hand slap.

Backstory: my brother needs a kidney. He's spent the past 45 years grappling with a body that hasn't worked well as his one overburdened kidney slowly gave out. He lost the other one to a tumor at nine months. Along with kidney failure he's dealing with a host of health issues that have developed as a result. I've always known, on some level, that should he need one, one of mine is his. He's always been adamant that he'd never ask, but dialysis, which started last summer, has been disastrous. Over Thanksgiving he asked if I was serious about the offer.

Back to Christmas Eve:

After the high five, he said, "Thanks. And I'm sorry."

He's been saying he's sorry since he first asked if I'd be tested. That's a family tradition, too. I suppose its roots lie in Jewish guilt, but "I'm sorry" comes as easily out of our mouths as "good morning." I apologize for not throwing a frisbee well, for my apartment being too messy (it's generally pretty neat), for not being as on top of things as I should.

As we sat in the transplant office, waiting and waiting and waiting during our initial visit, he apologized profusely. A lull in the conversation? I'm sorry filled the space. As we waited and waited and waited to have blood drawn (we ended up coming back the next day), he texted apologies, too, even though we were sitting next to each other. Sorry for the delays, the far-away doctor's office, the potential donation road that I was contemplating, the traffic, the parking. Huge or tiny, he's sorry.

I asked him to please stop. I was there because I wanted to be.

And now, after getting the good match news, I know I'm here because I'm supposed to be.

I have been blessed in my life with amazing things. I am amazed, just about every day, at where I am. I have been married for 22 years to someone I'm still delighted to see every day. We both came from divorced homes and forged something as unbreakable as we possibly could. We brought kids into the world who are thoughtful, wise, challenging, delicious. We live in a perfectly fine apartment in my favorite neighborhood in NYC. I not only wrote my dream book but got to put it out into the world the way I wanted to. I have had experiences I never could have imagined after many years of being heartbreakingly lonely and suffering from anorexia, crippling anxiety and insane self-doubt. And I have extraordinary friends and an extended family I'm just getting to know and appreciate.

I am grateful for all that my life is.

And I'm even more grateful that I can give something back.

In a bigger, more spiritual way (not that I often think that way, so forgive me if I sound too hippy-dippy), I feel like the universe brought me to this point. My time is relatively free, my schedule is open. My bike fall last fall -- broken bone in my hand, shredded knee -- taught me that I can go through pain and injury and heal to be just as strong as I was before.

From another point of view, what's the point of being here if you can't make an impact, a difference? We're on this planet for a very short time, and I'd rather mine be constructive than wasted.

My husband said years ago that if you have a choice to do something or not to do it, always choose to do. That way you won't wonder or regret or live with "what ifs." Way back then, that was almost impossible for me to contemplate, but it's become something that now comes far more naturally.

This is one "to do" that I wouldn't miss for the world.

No matter what happens, I'm thrilled to be on this journey. I know it will be hard, anxiety-provoking, stressful, frustrating. I know I'll be freaked out and second-guessing. I know I'll be scared.

That's life. That's the journey. My journey.

No apologies necessary.

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