The Gift of Life

Thanksgiving is usually held around October/November primarily in America and Canada, so the thanksgiving service I went too was a little different.  I had never been to one before, so this was my first!

The thanksgiving service was held in May, in Auckland NZ and organised by Organ Donation NZ organisation: A service of Thanksgiving – in recognition of those who have given the gift of life to others

I had heard a lot about the service of thanksgiving from my mum, who has attended several times, but I had never been before.  I had no idea what to expect leading up to the thanksgiving event and on the day I was quite on edge, as you can imagine.  I guess it doesn’t help being quite an emotional person who cries during happy and sad movies, at weddings and funerals so yes…saying it was a big day is an understatement!

Looking back on the day of the event it’s quite ironic now actually.

Mum came to stay for the weekend with us in Auckland, which was really nice! The day started out by attending a wedding show to look at all things, well, bridal (for my big day in Feb 2014) and then in the afternoon we attended the thanksgiving service – two events celebrating life and death, and the gift of life. I guess all things happen for a reason but it was uncanny that the two most important events in someone’s life happened in one day, well kind of.

When we arrived, we were ushered into the historic and beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, an upper market suburb in Auckland City, and were seated among a big crowd.  The church was almost packed to the brim and as I looked around I saw so many people from all walks off life – young, old, male, female and new-born babies being held in the arms of their parents.   It was then that I realised organ failure affects everyone – whether directly or indirectly, it does not discriminate and our time on this earth is limited. I know it sounds rather funny when I say it out loud, but to be honest I had never really thought about it before.  I’ve just focused on organ failure affecting my mum, I had never really looked at the bigger picture until then.

The service started and ended with beautiful hymns sung by the church choir, the service also included readings from the bible, prayers and poetry.  A donor recipient got up to thank his donor and talk about how the ultimate gift of life had really changed not only his life, but his families.  As he spoke, he nervously shook and stuttered throughout his entire speech.   But, thankfully no one cared because he had us all gripped by his words filled with emotions and heartfelt thanks.  He really was wearing his heart on his sleeve, and I am very grateful he did – someone has to now and again.  Mostly, to remind us that we are all human, we all have emotions and it is okay (we are allowed) to breakdown in public! What an inspiration he was, his family were sitting in the crowd watching in awe, he has five kids under five and a beautiful and caring wife.  His wife was just as brave, she did not once come to the stage to stop her husband from speaking in his fragile state, no she just watched knowing he could do it in his own strength, now that is how I would like to be treated in that situation.  At the end of his speech there was no dry eye in the Cathedral, mine included, my mum ran up to him and gave him a huge hug at the end of the Thanksgiving service along with half of the congregation, it was just beautiful to see all these people moved by his emotional speech.

His speech were filled with raw emotion and a true heartfelt thanks to his donor who had selflessly donated all their organs and viable tissues to people in desperate need of it when they passed on.  It’s scary to think how fragile our lives really are, one day we are fine and the next, while its up to Him and fate.  That’s why it is so important to live each day as if it was our last, as cheesy as that sounds, it’s so true! Life can be so unpredictable at times and other times is can become boring and mundane, either way we need to celebrate every day with meaning.  I came across this lovely quote the other day which really inspired me:

If you think positively
Sound becomes Music
Movement Becomes Dance
Smile Becomes Laughter
Mind Becomes Meditation
And Life Becomes a Celebration….

Next, a young lady got up to speak who had lost her sister about a year ago in a tragic car accident.  Her sister was only about 27 with a young child and husband and was driving home one day from work or her usual routine and was hit by an oncoming vehicle.  She ended up in ICU for a few days before her family had to make the awful decision of turning her life support off, gosh it churns my stomach just thinking about making that decision.  The young lady who was speaking was so calm, it was beautiful to see she said she is happy her sister gave the gift of life to three – four people who were waiting for organ/tissue transplants.  I guess I would feel the same if I was in her position because there are sooo many people in need of a new organ and all they can do is hope and pray for a new one – sometime in the future.

New Zealand has quite a low organ donation rate which makes me very sad, people need to be aware of the need out there.  I knew a lady who had been on dialysis for kidney failure for 20 years and never received a kidney transplant before she passed away because she has a very rare blood type – she was only 50ish when she passed away, that’s still young!

Look what I found on the NZ Organ Donor website

There are more people waiting for organs than there are organs available for transplantation. Some people will wait a number of months for a transplant while others will have to wait a number of years for an organ to become available. Sadly, some of these people will die waiting.

More than 400 New Zealanders are waiting for an organ transplant and approximately 350 of these are waiting for a kidney transplant. People waiting for a heart, lungs or liver will die without a successful transplant while those waiting for a kidney transplant lead lives restricted by long-term dialysis treatment.

Many more people are waiting for tissue transplants, including corneas, heart valves and skin.

It is so heartbreaking to read this!  Please look into organ donation and tell your friends and family about your decision too, it’s so important we give our organs to people in need when we pass on rather than them going to waste.

More to come next week, until then – stay safe and think about donating your organs when your time comes – it is such a selfless gift, that helps more than the recipient!

Here is a photo from the service, each candle was lit by a member of the family who has lost a loved one and each family were given a plant to remember their family member – who gave eternal life to someone else!

Life is precious and a gift!


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