Monthly Archives: November 2014

NOVEMBER 19–Saturday Afternoon


Last weekend, something happened that made me starkly aware of just how much someone has to lose in order for us to gain.

Our house is on a busy road, on a bad corner. Long ago we erected a large fence along the front. We sound-proofed our walls. We turned the focus of the house toward what was tranquil and pleasant: the yard and gardens, the river and trees.

Late on Saturday afternoon, Andrew was with Caitlin in Boston and I was home. I was on the phone with a friend, talking about our imminent move to Pittsburgh, and telling her how I had heard that someone at UPMC had gotten “the call” that day. As I talked, I wandered into the front of the house. Over the top of the fence that separates us from the busy road, I could see a fire truck.  I dismissed it as a false alarm—-they often happen, and in fact, a neighbor’s chimney had been pouring smoke a few hours before.

The next morning, we heard the news.  A man had taken our corner too fast. He hit a tree head-on, and died on impact. Our road had been closed for 4 hours, but because of all that insulation we put in years ago, we spent a quiet evening just a few feet away, blithely unaware.

For every lung transplant to happen, someone has to lose his or her life.  That is the stark reality of the situation and there is no avoiding it.  As I have mentioned previously, Nick’s beloved brother Willie died unexpectedly, years ago. The only positive thing that came out of that tragedy was that seven people got another chance at life. Caitlin has a friend who is seven years post-transplant. Every year, she sets a new goal for herself, to honor her donor. Saturday’s accident was a reminder that we have to try to get through this time with as much gratitude and integrity as possible.

As Caitlin says, “There is no reconciling the trade, of life for life, and no justifying it.”