Monday, September 06, 2004

"Don't take your organs to heaven..."

"...because heaven knows we need them right here on earth."

This article in the Chicago Tribune (you'll have to do a free registry to see it, but it's worth it) describes a young boy whose tragic death has given new life to a young girl in the Lawndale area of Chicago - both of whom were students at St. Rita's Catholic HS. It was forwarded to me by a friend who teaches at St. Rita's - who is understandably grieving for one student, and celebrating for another.

I've said it to everyone I know, but I'll say it again: UNIVERSAL ORGAN DONOR CARDS!

Here's two great links: this one, from the New York Organ Donor Network, and this one, from the Ohio LifeLine network, both address religious issues related to organ donation (and ought to be in every pastoral-care person's notebook or file somewhere). On this page, there is a classic quotation from the Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church of New York City, who wrote that
"…becoming a donor takes on sacramental meaning. Organ and tissue donation is considered to be the ultimate humanitarian act of benevolence."
and this, from the LCMS, from the Ohio site:
In fact, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was the first denomination to encourage donation [emphasis added]. In an issue of Lutheran Witness magazine, Rev. James W. Rassbach of the Board for Communication Services, Missouri Synod says, "We accept and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came to give life and came to give it an abundance. Organ donation enables more abundant life, alleviates pain and suffering and is an expression of love in times of tragedy."
(One of the few times you'll find me agreeing with one of their positions...)

To which I can only say, "Amen, preachers - preach it!"

The ELCA has affirmed and encouraged organ donation - you can see their actions here, their FAQ on donation in the Worship (funeral) portions here, and in the predecessor LCA resolution here.

Finally, please...please...please. Get a Universal Donor Card - do not just rely on some check-box or sticker on your drivers' license, because they are frequently ignored or overruled as not being a specific-enough statement of a person's wishes. (I've requested several from the Coalition for Donation, to have around for friends near the LSTC campus.) Then talk about it with your family! Make sure that a member of your family signs and witnesses your signature on the UDC. That way, they know that you have no objection to organ donation, and they know it's what you want. Even now, my own Universal Donor Card is in front of every other card in my wallet, where it's been since 1997...signed and witnessed by my sister and brother-in-law.

If Jimmy Hafton's tragic death can have any meaning, let it be not only in his gift of a new kidney to his friend, but in a new resolve to make organ donation a fact in our lives, and in the lives of our families. It truly is "a gift that keeps on giving."

Wouldn't it be cool if every seminary in the Chicago ACTS consortium put on a push to register people with Universal Donor Cards? Maybe to add 1,000 new registered donors to the lists by Christmas? We could do it...

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