“Cosmic perception enables you to absorb a mystical experience into your life without losing your footing . . .Hearing an inner voice for the first time. . .can be awesome and very startling. . .you sense an immediate familiarity and a warmth illuminates. You hear and you become aware of a profound feeling of love for something that you absolutely know is visiting you but is not you.” From Entering the Castle by Carolyn Myss.
Pam was reading this exact passage as I approached her in the coffee shop to hear her story. As she said, “Spirit has a perfect way of showing up at exactly the right moment in our lives.” She is a gentle and funny woman with beautiful green eyes, a warm smile and presence. Pam is also a beloved mother, wife and friend to many. The story she shares is an amazing example of a selfless gift of love offered to another. Her story of glimpsing spirit this way is intensely personal and she has asked to remain anonymous. For that reason, her name has been changed here.
Pam’s story for this piece began about fifteen years ago while she was taking care of an aging mother and witnessing her undergo dialysis three times a week. The world of dialysis was new to Pam and her heart was touched watching so many undergo this exhaustive, yet necessary procedure every other day for years of their lives. Out of love for her mom, she approached her physician and inquired about becoming a living kidney donor. Unfortunately, the physician explained that as her Mom was 82 and also suffered from congestive heart failure, donation would not be a wise choice for either of them. Although saddened, Pam accepted that it was not meant to be and moved on with her busy life.
She pauses in her story here and says, “I remember the night very clearly when things changed. My daughter was in college and came home late one evening. She really wanted to talk to me but wanted to take a shower first. As she went upstairs, I passed the time by flipping thru the newspaper. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to an ad that read, “My mom needs a kidney. I am desperate. Please call this number.”
Let’s pause here for a moment in our own story and let this synchronicity sink in for a moment. What are the chances of Pam glancing at this ad- written by a daughter for her own ill mother? A glimpse of spirit is often not a burning bush or a lightening bolt. It can be as simple and as piercing as a tiny twelve-word ad in a newspaper for exactly the right person at precisely the right moment.
Pam swallowed and closed the paper. She had an instant understanding that if she picked up the phone and dialed that number, it would end in her being a match. (To put this into perspective, the odds of Pam being a perfect match for a stranger were 1 in 100,000! The odds of being struck by lightening in your lifetime are 1 in 3000.) Unsure at first where it was coming from, she remembers an instant knowing that making that call would end in her being a living donor for a complete stranger. Her world would be forever changed and yet, so would that stranger’s life. Could she do it?
Yes she could… and lives were forever changed.
Pam did pick up that phone. She went thru the extensive medical and psychological testing necessary to offer this gift to another. It came as no surprise to her that she was a perfect match. Over the next year however, Pam was surprised by the fear and concern from her husband, children and close friends. Pam had felt such confidence and grace surrounding her decision there had been little room for fear. As such, this real and pressing concern from her loved ones took her a bit off guard. They peppered her with many questions. “What if something happened to her health in the future? What if she died on the table? Why would she want to do this for a stranger?” It was a trying year of questioning and occasionally feeling crazy for embarking on this journey. Pam now understands that these questions came from a space of love for her.
She also admits that the questions from her loved ones forced her to find stillness, discern and look at some aspects of this experience in a new way. When Pam began to doubt or question whether she should go thru with it, she would pause, pray and ask God to help her. She remarked, “ I asked God that if this is meant to be, to continue opening doors with the ease and grace that they have been opening. If and when doors began closing, I could then turn away from this call.”
The doors continued to open and Pam was grateful for the little signs and guideposts leading her forward and offering support; support that she was not crazy and that becoming a donor was the right decision. Pam describes that as she prayed she realized, “Being a living donor for a stranger almost felt like something I signed up for before I came to Earth. It was one of those God moments where you just know that if you could get your own self out of the way, that this is what your soul self or your heart wanted to do.”
The one missing piece for Pam remained the resistance from her family. Yet Spirit had a way opening doors here too. Shortly before the scheduled surgery date, her loving husband put the questions and objections from her family to rest. He told their children, “This is what your Mother wants to do and we are going to stand behind her 100%.” Telling me this, Pam tears up. The love and comfort she felt from the support of her family is still palpable years later. Having her husband and children stand beside her in love and solidarity was the last guidepost Pam needed to move forward with her decision to literally offer a part of herself to a stranger.
Pam successfully donated her kidney in 2003. Overall, she says she was well prepared for the process and that recovery was not too difficult. On the morning of the surgery, she was greeted by many nurses and doctors who thanked her for her selfless decision to help another. These health care workers spend their days caring for those waiting for a kidney. Currently in the United States, there are 80,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney. Most people on that list who receive a transplant receive the organ from a deceased person who has decided to be an organ donor. Living transplant, especially from a stranger, remains a beautiful, heroic and somewhat rare act. Pam was a hero that day and those health care workers recognized that fact.
Pam’s beloved Mother died only a year after her surgery. When donating her kidney, she had worked hard not to become too attached to the outcome. After all, there were no guarantees that the transplant would be a success. Prior to the surgery, Pam had been fortunate to meet the woman she donated her kidney to (often the living donor and recipient never meet). The recipient was about 7 years older than her and also a mother and grandmother. Eight years later, Pam received notice that the recipient had passed away. Pam attended her funeral and in a surreal moment of humor, she looked at the cremains and marveled, “I have a kidney in there, part of me has already died. How surreal!”
The amazing part of that day was her interaction with the recipient’s grown daughter, the woman who had placed that ad in the paper years ago. She approached Pam at the funeral and hugged her with eyes full of love. Pam shares, with tears in her own eyes, “This daughter looked at me and gently asked me to look around to see all of the beautiful grandchildren under the age of eight running around. She thanked me for my gift and the chance for all of these children to have precious time with their Grandmother.” This interaction was priceless confirmation that her offering had made a real difference in the lives of others. It was a moment she will never forget.
Pam shares that the road to becoming a living donor was a spiritual journey. One that was full of twists and turns, challenges and amazing moments of clarity. The knowing that this was part of her life’s journey was unexpected. It asked much of her and yet also allowed her to practice surrendering to spirit. Thru the process, she felt supported and loved. Doors opened. “I learned that if I could surrender then, in a big way, I could continue to surrender and let go in the many little ways of my everyday life.”
At one point, Pam discerned that she wanted to make sure her motives for becoming a transplant donor were not motivated by her ego and the idea that she would be applauded for such an act of selflessness. She is a thoughtful and wise woman.
In response to that nagging concern, Pam decided that in order to go thru with the process, she would remain as anonymous as possible. Her family and close friends know of her sacrifice but there was no larger party, no write-up in the paper, no sharing at coffee group. This was a simple gift offered in the name of her dear mother and kept close to her heart.
This glimpse of Spirit brought tears of gratitude to my own eyes. What a selfless act for another. There are angels who walk among us. They are our neighbors, our friends and those we encounter in the grocery store. These angels make me hopeful to be alive. Be still and listen. Perhaps your own call to love is whispering in this very moment. How are you being asked to glimpse spirit within your own life and will you heed the call?