I feel like I've been crying for the past few days. That isn't actually the case, but there have been more tears this weekend than I've had for a little while now. Today was the quilt pinning ceremony for the Arizona Donate Life network. Every family that has lost someone, whose loved one made the generous decision to donate their organs is invited to make an 8" x 8" panel that gets placed on a quilt that is then shown around Arizona to increase awareness for the cause. Melissa and I had talked about it several times over the years, with both of us making the choice to donate our organs "after we're done using them".
I got the invitation from the donor network back in January. The weekend of my birthday, of all times. It was one of those letters that I was willfully ignoring. Every time I would see it poking out of the stack of papers on my desk a small part of me would panic and I'd quickly find something else to do. Finally, with the deadline to RSVP fast approaching, I couldn't ignore it anymore. I resolved to make a patch for Melly and Matthew, to make sure that their generosity was recognized and remembered. I am also hopeful that her genourosity would influence others down the line to make the same choice.
The two issues with my decision to participate in the quilt this year were that first, I have not idea how to quilt, and second, there was still a not insignificant part of me that panicked at the thought of pinning a square for them. To make matters worse, I procrastinated until yesterday afternoon before starting, giving me all of 24 hours to get it done. The weight of the task, coupled with traveling six of the past 10 days, created an emotional burden that more or less ruined my weekend.
Rather than spending time learning to actually quilt, I resolved to get a picture of Melly printed onto canvas, and then doing a simple stitch to attach it to a fabric backing. I went through hundreds of pictures of her until I found the one I felt best showed her spirit and personality. It was taken the day after Thanksgiving in 2010. We decided to take our girls, Libby and Daisy, for a hike in the Superstitions. It was clear and crisp, a beautiful late fall afternoon in Arizona. We had no family obligations to attend to. No black Friday shopping to do. Just the four of us, Melly and I, and our two dogs, together in the desert enjoying each other's company.
Along the way we told funny stories, encouraged our older girl, Libby, to walk freely along the trail while we taught our younger girl, Daisy, how to walk on a leash. We took lots of pictures that day. Of the mountains, of each other. Of the dogs. I managed to get a picture of her during one of her famous full body laughs. I don't remember what made her laugh so hard, if it was a joke I told, or something Daisy was doing on her leash. Whatever it was, I am so happy that I was able to get a picture of that moment. Looking at it yesterday and today, it makes me feel her spirit right beside me. It makes me think about the moment when we found out Matthew was a boy, and of the moment she suggested that we get married. A single picture that managed to capture so much joy and love.
I had the picture printed onto canvas at the Walgreens down the street. When I went to pick it up there was a couple in line in front of me at the photo counter. They had a new baby with them, maybe six months old. I couldn't help but think of Matthew.
They were getting his picture taken for a passport. Apparently even babies require papers these days. The father was from here. The mother was an American citizen, but had family still in Mexico. They were traveling to her sister's wedding across the border. The baby passport was so that they could take their son with them; so he could meet his grandparents and cousins for the first time. As they were getting him ready for his picture the father kept saying to him "muy feliz, muy feliz". Which roughly translates to "very happy, very happy". And it's true, they were. And their happiness spread to all of us, for and with them.
Once back home, with Melly's picture on canvas, I went searching through her old sewing supplies to find a cloth backing. I found a quilted patch that she had been working on for Matthew's first blanket. Look no further, this would be the piece.
The process of choosing and printing her picture, going through her supplies, and then finding Matthew's blankie was just too much. I had to get away, so I decided to go to the movies.
The new X-Men: Wolverine movie, Logan, started last weekend. I had been looking forward to it, so decided that was the one to see. I went into the movie blind, not knowing a thing about the plot or details. I can say that it was excellent and that I would like to see it again. What I cannot say is that it was a good choice for my weekend full of remembrances and regrets. Without giving away too much, Logan focuses on an aging, weary, and mournful Wolverine as he comes to terms both with the friends he's lost and the people he's had to hurt or kill. His physical abilities are declining, while his emotional and empathetic capacities are heightened. It is a very powerful movie, given the comic book genre, but also a bit of a bummer. I fully recommend seeing it.
The actual quilt pinning ceremony was this afternoon. Each family was encouraged to talk about their loved one, so that we could all get a sense of them. How much they were loved and how much they are missed. When it was my turn to speak I got up to face the room full of grieving families and broke down. I made the mistake of going to the event by myself. I thought I could be big and strong, and face the world and my pain on my own. I could have had any number of people with me, but I chose not to tell anyone about the event. It all seemed too much to explain, so I decided to go it alone.
As I looked out on that crowd of a few hundred, having heard their stories, I felt their compassion and understanding. I spoke of Melly and Matthew, about how happy she was and about that day in the Superstitions. About why I picked the picture I did, and how it still showed me her joy through everything. I told the room that the reason I decided to allow her organs to be donated was because I knew it was her choice; and because how even though it was her choice and I could veto it should I have decided to, I didn't because I wanted someone else to benefit so that maybe they could have another day hiking in the Superstitions like our own. Another day for someone to love and live, laugh and cry. To carry on their story for all of us to hear.