The words were warbled. Gradually the haze of unconsciousness cleared and several familiar faces were saying over and over again in that warbled haze, “It works!! It works!!”
I had awoken from a kidney transplant on the morning of July 2, 2002. It seemed only moments, between the constant stream of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists wishing me well or monitoring urine flow or blood pressure, before my mum was wheeled in a wheelchair by my brother Andy. I was shocked considering it was mere hours after she gave me a kidney. My first words were, “You should be still resting! You just had an organ removed!”
My brother piped in saying, “Are you kidding she was asking for a newspaper to read as she was being wheeled out of surgery.”
I started talking and as the rate and timber of my voice increased, my mum said, “That’s why I did this. You’re back to normal. Listen to you. You’ve been cloudy for all this time and now your eyes are so much clearer. You’re the old Stephen.”
I was suddenly struck at how clear my thoughts were. How I could speak more clearly. Over 20 months in the hospital to that point seemed to suddenly hit me all at once. this is what I was waiting for. Waiting through a heart transplant. Waiting to see if the kidney function returned in my original kidneys. Waiting to gain weight after losing every kilogram possible and still live. Waiting for a liver to heal. Waiting to swallow. Waiting to eat. All the focus on getting through each day finally reached its pinnacle when my mum pointed out my renewed clarity.
I think of her every day because of that gift she gave ten years ago. I think of her every day because of her legacy of unconditional kindness. I think of her when I can stand because for the longest time I couldn’t. I think of her when I walk. Or eat. Or cook something she would refer to as “fine eating,” knowing I could do none of it now if it wasn’t for that gift 10 years ago today.
I also think of her every day because of the suffering she endured several years later. A successful battle with breast cancer. The strength within her eventually stripped when cancer returned in several areas. Her own body withered. The unconditional kindness that was there throughout her life never diminished even as she faded to a point where she couldn’t speak anymore. I think of her every day. After the last of her physical strength was gone and she died last September, I awake every morning ensuring I quietly thank her for every day she gave to me. How she still gives, inside of me everyday in the emotional sense as a mother’s love, but in the physical sense, that part of her still lives inside of me. Thank you, Mum. I’ll take care of you now.