Am I Ready to Die?
On December 6, I will be donating a kidney to a stranger. I have wanted to do this for years now because I am young and in strong physical shape; thus, I feel like I am an optimal donor. Ever since I started the medical evaluation to qualify for donation, I feel positive about it. I don’t foresee any complications, and I recovered extremely well from my previous top surgery (AFAB). Nevertheless, when the surgery date was set, reality hit me. Listening to other people’s concerns about me have also ignited my realization that I could die as a result of surgery, or my life may get cut short later if I were to develop kidney problems. While I still feel confident about surgery, I decided to use my writing to explore my feelings about my own mortality.
I have always wanted my life to matter. I don’t need it to matter to a large population of people, but I need it to matter to some people. I want to die knowing that someone else’s life benefited from mine. Thus, donating a kidney seems like a good way to establish this goal. I can’t guarantee that my recipient will have a positive outcome; however, even if the person doesn’t, I think we can share the connection that we both took this risk to improve this person’s quality of life. Ideally, I would love to know that this person no longer must undergo hours of dialysis and may have a longer life. If I die from the operation and my recipient lives, then I will know that someone else’s life is improved because of my sacrifice. At least I can die knowing that my life mattered.
What if this person dies? Is it a waste? Is it no longer worth it? What if we both die?
I can’t claim to know how the recipient’s death may impact me. I don’t think anyone can know until that situation arrives. For right now, I still want to do it. I don’t see any need to dismiss my choice just because my recipient may not survive. I tried to help someone; it’s the intention that matters. The rest is beyond my control. Should I only help others if I know without a doubt that my efforts will be successful? Life doesn’t offer such guarantees. Hence, I say help anyway.
But what if I die?
There are many things that I still want to do in my life. I am publishing my first novel next year, a dream that I have had since childhood. I found a marathon on Easter Island, a place that I have always wanted to see. My husband Joe and I plan on getting remarried in Las Vegas as men for our ten-year wedding anniversary. There are so many recipes out there that I haven’t gotten to cook, so many places that I want to visit, so much love that I want to share with my cats and others, and as a counselor, so many people that I want to help. So, yes, I have many more dreams to live.
On the other hand, I’ve run over 70 marathons and ultramarathons in over 10 countries. My childhood was happy. I have four college degrees. I have an amazing marriage that I didn’t even know was possible. I lived in China for three years. I just got a publishing contract. I love my job. I have spent my life pushing myself physically, emotionally, and intellectually, always hungry to know the potential inside me. So far, with every feat, I only confirm that I can go even further.
At 40, I am a rich person. I am not referring to monetary wealth; I am referring to a richness of experiences and interpersonal/intrapersonal connection. I have surpassed my expectations and have utilized my time here well. Even during the pandemic, I turned it into an opportunity to learn new recipes, to start learning DIY home improvement, and to join a weekly meditation “Encounter with Self” group. I’ve always had a goal, usually multiple ones, that I am striving towards. Earlier this year, reflecting on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I realized that I am a self-actualized person.
My conclusion is that even though I prefer not to die so that I can continue to pursue more experiences, if I die in this surgery or from complications later, I can’t really ask for more in life. I am right where I want to be, and I have lived authentically. Thus, as morbid as it sounds, I am ready to die.
I feel that I can leave this life knowing confidently that I am satisfied and that I positively impacted others. Joe and I have been fortunate to experience over 10 wonderful years together whereas some people never experience such a fulfilling relationship. Although I work excessively, I voraciously enjoy my leisure time whether it involves stroking my cats’ soft fur and enjoying the rise and fall of their breath to zoning out on a Thursday evening with some cabernet and music videos. As I have gotten older, I have learned to savor moments of joy in the present instead of always chasing some far-off promise of a happy future. Instead, I relish any moment of joy no matter how mundane the activity seems.
Therefore, in this moment, I am happy, and generally, I am happy. I often deeply reflect on how grateful I am for my life and what it has been. More importantly, I reflect on the amazing adventure of getting to know myself throughout my life. I couldn’t ask for a better body because my body is the only body I will ever possess. I couldn’t ask for a better mind because it’s the only mind that I will ever possess. I couldn’t ask for a better soul because it is my soul that comprises me. Because for me, at the end, it’s not about my accomplishments or possessions. For me, it’s about dying knowing that I loved myself and that I hopefully made the environment around me a better place. When people remember me and some, perhaps, carry me in their soul, it will all be the real me. My memory will carry on accurately because I lived authentically.
People can die in surgery, but people can die in car accidents. Everything is risky. There is no way to know when this life may end. I love my life because I know that one day, I must let it go. It's finite nature makes my love for my life stronger. Therefore, I am going to continue to live my life and take risks so that no matter what, I am always ready to die.
I am always ready to die because I am always living.