Sometimes we get glimpses into the most intimate parts of people's lives. And I'm totally not talking about the bedroom kind of intimate. I'm talking about the moments when something happens that profoundly changes who a person is, or their life path. But not the retelling of those moments. Being there, when they are actually happening.
Sometimes these moments are beautiful, inspirational, hopeful. Like seeing a baby come into the world. Or being present when a child is placed in his mother's arms, and a mother is born. The wedding of a couple much in love.
Sometimes they are unbearably sad. Like when a child dies. Or a loved one has become so fuzzy she is no longer able to recognize us. A definitive diagnosis of infertility.
In my personal life, I have been present for a few of these moments. But, as a social worker, I've witnessed many of them. And unfortunately, the majority have been the sad ones.
Recently I was wittiness to parents having to make the decision of whether or not to donate their young daughter's organs. Medically she had been determined to have experienced brain death, which, in our state, means she was legally dead. Their decision was between organ donation (which would mean she was "alive" for an additional 24-36hrs while the necessary testing, etc... was done prior to donation) and not (which would mean the staff would disconnect her from the life support machines relatively quickly).
You all, I don't know how you make this decision as a parent. I'd like to think that I would be able to make something "good" come from my child's death in this way. But I just don't know that I could. Logically and spiritually it makes sense me. Right now. But I'm pretty sure that neither of those would be what would be guiding me in that awful moment. I'm pretty sure that my emotional being would be fully in control. Or out of control. How could I agree to lose another part(s) of my child?
The parents ultimately decided for their own reasons not to donate her organs. Many of the staff were bothered by this. A couple of times someone said something along the line that the parents would regret this decision in the future, their opportunity to help save someone else's life.
But I don't blame them. All they wanted was the life of their daughter to be saved. And, though it was not possible, that doesn't mean that they were emotionally in a place to make this kind of decision.
This day was likely the worst day professionally I've ever had. I don't want to experience one like it ever again. But I know my day pales in comparison to the day those parents had. The days they have had since that day. I desperately hope it is a day that none of us as parents ever has to experience.
Today's Lesson: Sometimes I wonder when I will feel like an "adult", I want to feel like an adult. And then I am witness to a moment such as this, and I do indeed feel like an adult. And then I no longer want to feel like an adult. There are some decisions none of us should ever be forced to make. Adult or not.