A post on Facebook the other day showed a picture of a beautiful brunette with a stunning smile. The text said: ‘She waited for a donor heart for 4 years. Now she’s dead. Are you a donor yet?’ Wow. I felt instantly guilty, as if I were responsible for her death, because I wouldn’t have given her my heart if I had died in the past 4 years.
No. I wouldn’t. Not even on Valentine’s Day.
‘But wait a minute’, I thought. ‘This is wrong! I don’t want to be guilt tripped into becoming a donor. I have good reasons not to be and selfishness is not one of them.’
There’s a new donor law coming in the Netherlands
While you read this there’s a new donor law being installed in the Netherlands. Before you were not a donor until you officially stated you were. The new law says you are a donor until you officially state you’re not. So let me officially state this right away, so it’s clear: I am NOT a donor! If I happen to die, please show the doctors this article and help me to die in peace.
Bag of bones
There are different views on what we are and what happens after we die. Some people believe we are just a body and when the body dies it all ends. I guess from that perspective it’s pretty obvious to believe that being a donor is a good idea. The dead person has no use of the body anymore anyway, so why not make a living person happy for a little longer?
The buddhist view on who we are
In Buddhism a human being is seen as a soul on an evolutionary journey, reincarnating many times in different bodies, learning from every life and every experience. To me this makes total sense. I’m more than a body. Did you ever see a dead body? It looks a hell of a lot different from a body that’s alive, doesn’t it? Obviously the soul has left. Of course there’s a soul.
‘Yes’, the buddhist will say. ‘And the process of the soul leaving the body must happen with the utmost care. The soul needs a chance to cross over without trauma and damage. The body must not be touched for 3 days after death. Family and loved ones need to gather around the body, pray and communicate with the soul in order to help it, him, her, to move on. A calm, peaceful, loving surrounding is crucial for the soul to let go of the body, to trust and not panick.
What does donorship really look like?
Right. So I die in the hospital, surrounded by my loved ones. How long do we get until a team of body cutters with coolers rush in to cut my organs out, take out my eyes, strip of my skin? 10 minutes to honor my death, while the waiting patient is already prepped for surgery? Take your time. Imagine what this would actually look like. It’s important, because it’s the reality of donorship.
Would you give your heart to a stranger?
Talking about which: do I even know the patient? Like: ‘Hey, I’m going to save your life, nice to meet you.’ No, of course not. Why is there no Tinder app for donors? No. I’m suddenly supposed to love humanity so much that I’m willing to give my heart, my lungs or anything to a stranger, while I’m supposed to expect from my loved ones that they prioritize this above their need to say goodbye. Why? While I’m alive I’m not expected to give a dollar to a beggar, it’s even against the law to house a refugee, but when I die I have to be a saint? When did that shift happen? Who does it serve?
What would you do with $ 1.4 milllion?
Talking about which: How much does let’s say a heart transplantation cost? I Googled it. 1.4 million dollars. A kidney transplant only costs 400.000. So let’s see. Planting Peace, a global nonprofit organisation, is currently helping the 700.000 Rohingya, refugees from Myanmar, to survive the winter just across the borders of their ripped up country. The children in the camps are dying like flies, mostly because of worms. Yes, worms. To deworm a child for 6 months costs 10 cents. Indeed, with 10 cents the main cause of death is taken away. Do the math. I just did. A heart transplantation is worth 14 million deworm treatments. We’re talking money here. What would you do? Say: ‘Give that heart to me’ or: ‘Go and save the Rohingya’? Now we’re talking. Want to be a hero? Then don’t take the heart. Not even the kidney. Want to be a noble doctor? Go where you are most needed, for God’s sake!
Why are we getting sick in the first place?
On another note: How far would 1.4 million dollar go to fund research based on finding out why heart and vascular diseases are the leading cause of death nowadays? And how far would 1.4 million dollar go to set up prevention programs where people are educated about how to live happy, healthy lives? Are we as a society really doing everything we can to create a community of healthy, thriving people? No. We are not. Abso-fucking-lutely not. Why not? These questions need to be asked.
The soul lives on in the organs
There are numerous movies, books and articles about the phenomenon that people who get an organ from a dead person start dreaming about that persons life. Their character changes, they overtake trades, feelings and subtle habits from their donor. Sometimes they even start yearning for people they never knew before: the loved ones of the diseased.
The taoist view on who we are
‘Of course’, a taoist would say. Just as in buddhism they see us as a soul living in a body for a limited amount of time, learning new stuff and then moving on. The soul is deeply connected to the body though. Look at how hard it is to move house. How would it feel to move body? In taoism it’s said that the soul has different aspects, living in different parts of the body, a bit like different rooms in a house. Guess in which parts of the body the soul resides? THE ORGANS. When the body dies also a taoist dedicates himself towards giving both the body and the soul a good time, in order to give the soul the best possible passage. This takes time, love and care. After death the different aspects of the soul gently retract from the organs, unite and move on as a whole being. If all goes according to plan.
Can I not even die in peace here?
Imagine: I die and my soul is getting ready to gather and move on. I’m a bit melancholic, as I just kissed goodbye to my family and I really loved this life. I feel like contemplating, going over my life, remembering the moments of love, of beauty, of awe. I want to dwell a bit on that kiss, those eyes, those mountains… At that point a team of doctors rush in, family has to leave right away, my body is cut open and my heart, kidneys and eyes are taken out. The heart goes to one person, the kidneys to another and the eyes to a third one. They need to move fast! Time is of the utmost importance!
If one person sees with my eyes, does my heart in the other person feel it?
My soul is now confused – probably that’s an understatement. Roaring panic would be a better description, I guess. Because HOW am I supposed to move on now? And HOW is part of my soul, part of ME, going to manage in the body of another soul? Will they get along, or will we both become raving psychotic? And if one person sees something with my eyes, does my heart in the other person feel it? And is there any meaning, any purpose, any real significance to my soul litterally being scattered, as well as the soul of the other person? Now how do we both live our lives? Do I have to wait until this person dies to and then go get that piece of my soul back straight away? Is that even possible, or is my path truly fucked forever?
Have we come to an agreement? NO!
Many questions. Unanswered questions! Nobody knows for sure what will happen after death – well, maybe an enlightened Buddhist or immortal Taoist monk does. But I don’t – and neither do you. Get real. We haven’t figured it out in the past 2000 years. Then why does this new donor lobby assume that we have somehow come to an agreement and now all agree that the soul either doesn’t exist or doesn’t mind its temporary spacesuit will be cut in pieces right after death? Why am I pushed into a belief system that to me is the epitome of ignorance and arrogance? Since when do we deny the ancient wisdom of spiritual paths like buddhism and taoism? Who has suddenly decided that NOW we know better?
I am a soul, living in a physical body
This is what I believe now: I have lived many lives and I will live many lives. I’m blessed to have this life and I’m fully dedicated to making the most of it. When I die I’m pretty sure my soul will enjoy to be guided to the other side in a peaceful, loving way. I will need a few days, even a few weeks to do this properly. I want to cross over in one piece, please. So don’t you dare cut in me when I’m dead! And don’t freeze me either! Allow me to die naturally, slowly and peacefully. Allow the people who love me to say goodbye, in their own time. They need that too.
Don’t mess with me
Just don’t mess with me, you hear? Don’t mess with the soul. Don’t mess with life. Don’t mess with death. I feel for that beautiful young girl who died at a young age because of heart failure. I feel for that Rohingya kid starving to death because his belly is full of worms. I feel for everybody who is sick or unhappy. Yes, I contribute fullheartedly to make this world a better place. But I’m NOT a donor.
You want to make a difference? Start with donating to www.plantingpeace.org. Oh and you can actually do this while you are still alive.