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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Death Takes His Due

©2014 Gordon Kirkland

It’s been a rough week. Maybe it’s because Halloween is approaching, but for whatever reason, Death has been hanging around and pulling his old tricks.

In September of 2013, I was on Death’s front porch, about to ring the doorbell when an organ transplant saved my life and pulled me back from the brink. I was completely ready to cross that threshold. My funeral was planned. I had indicated that my body was to be cremated and the ashes spread on the lake where my parents had their summer home when I was a kid. My wife said that would be fitting. That way I could continue to be all wet throughout eternity.

I’m beginning to think that the old skull-face is extracting some revenge for my escape from his clutches.

Shortly after my transplant, a younger man made contact with me through an online support group for patients with, or waiting for, liver transplants. He had his transplants about two months before me. As one of the fine parting gifts you get after a transplant is medication induced insomnia, Eric and I would often find ourselves on line in the middle of the night. We would spend time, in the dark, talking and joking about our new realities, and trying not to laugh so loud that we would wake our housemates.

As the months past, we became good friends, despite the 2000 or so miles and an international border between my home in British Columbia and his in San Antonio. Eric challenged me to the Ice Bucket Challenge in August. We last talked early in October. Shortly thereafter, Eric went into complete liver and kidney failure and lapsed into a coma. He died on Monday, October 20th.

It’s a fact of life for transplant patients. Things can go awry suddenly and disastrously. It is in the back of my mind all the time.

Death wasn’t satisfied with that one event. In the next few days, two others awaiting transplants and members of the same online support group lost their battles. That happens far too frequently. Approximately twenty people die every day in North America waiting for a transplant. There are simply not enough viable organs available.

Too few people take the few minutes it requires to register to be an organ donor. Of those, only about one percent die in such a way that their organs could be used. The donor must be in a hospital, on life support and be declared brain or cardiac dead. That status must be confirmed independently by two physicians not related to the transplant process. Of those, only one percent will have organs suitable for transplant.

And Death still wasn’t finished making my head spin. I also learned last week that Lindor Reynolds, a newspaper columnist I had gotten to know when we were both members of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists passed away on October 17th. Lindor was funny, intelligent and compassionate. She’s leaving a big hole behind that will be difficult, if not impossible to fill.

Enough is enough, right? Well, Death is never satisfied. There will never be enough to satisfy him. On October 24th, Dru Campbell, an author I had taught with for several years on the faculty of the Southern California Writer’s Conference succumbed to cancer. Dru was a great writer and educator. Many people benefited from her knowledge of the craft of writing, which she shared freely over the years 

Canadians as a whole were affected by Death’s touch last week. Two radicalized individuals brought terror to our country. One used his car to run down two soldiers, killing one. Another used a rifle to kill a soldier standing guard on our national capital war memorial and tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before running into the halls of Parliament. As I watched the video of that man’s last moments my mind ran through the same steps the security officials took as they chased him down. I used to walk that hall every day when I worked as a writer for then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. I watched in shock, knowing that he was just steps away from well over one hundred members of Parliament sitting in their respective caucus chambers.


Seven days. Seven deaths. Yes. It’s been a rough week, and I can only hope that Death is finished messing with me for now.

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Gordon Kirkland At Large

Writings and Wramblings from the Wandering and Wondering Mind of Gordon Kirkland