Last chance

14 years ago today…

I held the phone, helpless. The woman on the other end pleaded with me to ask my mother just one more time to consider donating the healthy organs of her 23-year-old son. Strong heart of a Marine in training, lungs for running, kidneys for two, corneas to see. I’ll do my best, I promised.

But mom couldn’t bear the thought of breaking apart his body even more than it had been by the impact of his skull against the steel side of a van. Motorcycle helmets can only do so much. How many lives were waiting for that last chance that a mother’s anguish could not see light to give?

If you were to die unexpectedly, do your loved ones know your wishes? Are you an organ donor? Have you had this discussion?


Author: TJ

adventurer, writer, photographer

6 thoughts on “Last chance”

  1. i find myself unsure of how to prepare for my own death. it’s not the dying that freaks me out, but the prospect of having such clear wishes that the people that i love who would be left behind wouldn’t be able to get what they needed out of the process. living rachel is an organ donor, doesn’t want a grave, wants to be cremated and scattered by the wind. but once i’m dead, who am i to say that my child can’t have a grave to visit? that my partner has to let my body be broken? there’s a lot of gray area.

    eve kosofsky sedgwick wrote my favorite essay on dying of all time and one of my favorite essays in general. it’s called “the white glasses” and it is breathtaking, i think.

    thank you for inviting us into this space with you, tj.


  2. It’s an awful thing in the face of grief to have to make decisions. I learned that well after my brother’s unexpected death in an accident, too. Shortly after his death, I wrote up instructions about my own funeral instructions so that my family would not have to try and guess what I would have wanted.

    My friend, Kay Diller, wrote a book about preparing for death. The more we can do this when we’re alive, the easier it will be for our loved ones after we die. Her blog is: and her book is Planning, Preparing and Peace:


    1. Communications are hard with loved ones, but they are easier when one is well and not facing difficult decisions — like when a medical emergency arises. I know as I’ve experienced both – with my mother becoming ill and passing in five months and then again for myself when I had to have surgery. My friend who will help me and make sure everything is taken care of hated it when I showed her my legal documents and discussed what she needed to do should anything happen during the surgery. Nothing did happen, much to my friend’s relief! I was very relieved, too, knowing if anything did happen, my kids would be taken care of. Tough conversation – would I do it again even though my friend was uncomfortable…absolutely!



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