|My wife, Lucy, died on July 26, 2010 of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage caused by a subarachnoid aneurysm. She was 49 years, 2 months and 4 days old. She had graduated from Smith College and U.K. College of Law, was a member of the Bar, practiced law for a bit, but once our first child was born, the law went to the back burner, perhaps off the stove, and Lucy devoted her time and efforts to our children and community.
The week before Lucy died, all our children, ages 20, 18, 16 and 12, were out-of-town, at school or camp. And we had a great week! We had a lot of great weeks in 29 years, but that one stands out because I have replayed it so many times. One night dinner at Bellini’s, one night at Pazzo’s, one night at home watching Rear Window starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. And the Saturday night before she was stricken, we went to Tulip on Romany Road. The plan for Sunday morning was church, and then breakfast at Doodle’s on Limestone. Unfortunately, early Sunday morning, July 25, maybe about 5:00 a.m., Lucy was stricken with a massive cerebral hemorrhage. She thought it was a migraine, and by the time I realized it was more than that, called 911, and got her to the hospital, well . . . nothing could be done. I knew by about 8:00 a.m. on that Sunday that she was gone. The neurosurgeon told me that if Lucy had been at the hospital when the bleeding had started, nothing could have been done, since they have to wait for the bleeding to stop to do anything. She was declared dead on Monday morning, and organ donation happened on Tuesday morning. Heart, lungs, liver, kidney, eyes. From onset to organ donation was 52 hours.
The organ donation decision for our family was an easy one. Two factors were Lucy’s manner of death, and our awareness that she had always expressed a clear preference for cremation. Plus, Lucy was not a hoarder. If she had no use for something, it did not stay around long. We may have discussed organ donation, and perhaps she had checked the box when she got her driver’s license, but the obvious facts were that she would not need her organs too much longer and if we did not donate, well, the cremation was going to happen.
Everyone’s grief is different, and shock and loss were my experience in those first few days. Even after four years, I cannot make any sense of the loss. The doctors can tell us “how” Lucy died, but they cannot answer “why.” The really hard part is for those of us who survive. From my experience, however, which maybe will apply to others, I am grateful that I was blessed with a wonderful companion for as long as I was, and I am comforted by the knowledge that my wife had a great life (too short certainly, but a great life): she had a husband who loved her and provided for her; she had children who loved her and whom she loved; and she had a great family and numerous friends. AND, we were able to add to the those blessings by the gift of life– organ donation.