29 April 2013
Here it is: a year since Kirby died. And her 30th birthday is upon us.
I know all of us who knew her remember her. But one of the several things that continue to grieve me is the fact that her life was so prematurely ended. She didn’t have a chance at the thirty or forty years we expect, for you twenty- and thirty-somethings. Nor did she HAVE the thirty or forty years we fifty- and sixty-somethings have had.
Those are the thirty or forty years to make our marks. To create our legacies.
So, one of my preoccupations in the last year has been her memorials. Things that keep a least bits of Kirby-ness out there in the world.
A lot of you have written to me/us in the last year. Sometimes it is to share memories of her and your times together.
I don’t know how much everyone knew about intentions about tissue/organ donation. From her first driver’s license she checked the organ donation boxes. By the time mortality was actually, prematurely, staring her in the face her organs were no longer of interest for donation. They were potentially contaminated by cancer and even if not cancerous had been assaulted by all the harsh chemicals used to try to beat back the cancer. (When we were signing the interminable consent forms for the toxic drugs we were also warned of the possibility that the drugs themselves could cause cancer in five or ten or fifteen years.)
Anyway: the exception was her eyes.
In those last couple
of weeks I checked with someone to see if they could still use her eyes and they said yes. (She and I actually talked about this in her last weeks. No: we hadn’t given up, but in typical Capen-Weinstein family mode, we were doing contingency planning.)
She hardly talked at all about the worst possibilities in those five and a half months but she did, at random intervals express wishes:
“I don’t want to die in pain.”
(This was during those months when she lived constantly with the 1-10 pain scale, sometimes reporting a 15. Rejoicing at a 2. A minor triumph was that she DIDN’T die in pain.)
“I want a Jewish burial.”
“I want to be buried at Congressional.”
(She got it.)
“I want my obituary sent to Smith.”
(We did send it: Maybe you Smithies can tell us if they put it in the alum magazine…)
Anyway, when w
e talked about organ donation, maybe in the last month, she said she didn’t want her body donated, and understood they didn’t want organs, but she still wanted to donate her eyes.
When she in Hospice Care, even while we still hoped for the miracle she didn’t get, I told them, the Hospice people, that was the intent; they got us forms; and then, after she died, it happened.
So: it is possible one of us may, one day, look at someone who will look back at us through one of Kirby’s (gorgeous blue) eyes.
The letter the TBI/Tissue Banks International sent us:
aughter cannot be measured in words. Feelings of this dimension are not easily expressed nor easily understood by o
“However, through your caring there are now two people whose lives have been
linked forever to Kirby…Although these two people may never know one another, they have one thing in common. Both were blind; and both have been restored to sight, through your understanding and the miracle of corneal surgery.
“On their behalf, please accept our profound gratitude for making this miracle possible.”
We got the letter but of course the real thanks go to Kirby.
I have other news about how she is still in the world with us that I will share. Soon.
The cranes and their continuing flights.
Funds in her name with Smith College and AFS.
Thank you all for your continuing notes, emails, good wishes, thoughts, prayers, kindness.
This grief is a journey, that like life itself, won’t end this side of the grave.
BUT we’ve made great progress in the last fourteen months in learning how to live with it. The grief is now chronic, less acute.
I know that her loving friends, family, community also share in this grief and please know you have my sympathy, too.
More to follow, soon, I hope.