Twelve years ago today, I was standing on the banks of the Grand Canyon, getting engaged to my lovely Terry.
Ten years ago today, I was sitting in a hospital reception area, waiting to find out if the transplanted kidney which Terry was receiving from his brother, John (and which we’d found out he needed just a few days after we got engaged), would be a success.
It’s fair to say December 15th is a pretty big day for us.
Thankfully, the transplant WAS a success: but, of course, I didn’t know that at the time. In fact, being the doom-mongerer and general worrywart that I am, I was 100% convinced Terry was going to die on the operating table: and probably John, too, for that matter.
I’ve never believed in fate: I don’t think “these things happen for a reason” or that “what’s for you won’t go by you”, but fear makes believers of all of us, and as I sat there, watching workmen put up a giant Christmas tree in the lobby of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (and wondering how on EARTH anyone could even THINK about Christmas, given that the world was about to end?), I became more and more convinced that the date was more than a coincidence. That the life we should have started together on December 15th, 2003, was going to end on December 15th, 2005, and that there was absolutely no way that this would not come to pass.
(Yeah, I was a real joy to be around that day, seriously.)
We didn’t really celebrate our engagement. There was no party, no excited planning of the wedding day – I don’t think we even got many cards, other than a handful that were given to us with an apologetic, “We didn’t really know if it was appropriate given that Terry’s in hospital, but…”. What can people say, though, when you’ve announced your engagement by saying, “Guess what? I got engaged! And also Terry has kidney failure: he’s going to need a transplant!”
I didn’t care about any of that, though. I didn’t feel cheated of the whole “engagement” experience, because I didn’t think there would ever be a wedding. Honestly, I didn’t think our future would hold ANYTHING other than dialysis sessions, emergency trips to the hospital, and the scent of disinfectant and despair.
I have never been so glad to be wrong about something in my life. And the reason I was wrong about it? Terry’s brother, John. Who was wheeled off to the operating theatre that morning with a cheerful wave and a “see you later”, as if what he was doing WASN’T the bravest, most selfless thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Which it was, of course – although not to John. To John, it was just the obvious solution to the problem: of course he would give his brother a kidney. That’s just the kind of person he is, and we will never stop being thankful for it, although never more so than on December 15th. (Quick shout-out here to Terry’s mum, and to his brother, Niko, who both also went through testing with a view to donating a kidney. Totally filling up here just thinking about it…)
So the transplant worked, and it’s still working, ten years later. I wish I had known it at the time. Sometimes when I think about that day I wish I could go back in time, sit down beside my younger self, and say, “Look, it’s going to be OK, you know. He’s going to be OK. In fact, he’s going to be better than OK. You’ll get married. You’ll move house. That business you started will keep on going, so you won’t have to go back to that job you hated. You’ll go to San Francisco, and Los Angeles – hell, you’ll even go back to Las Vegas, and this time you’ll see it without all of the health-related anxiety. One day all of this will be ten years ago, and things WILL be better.”
So now that day has come. It’s ten years later, and on THIS December 15th we’ll go out for dinner, open a bottle of champagne, and think about how incredibly lucky we are. Thank you, John, for being one of the bravest people I know: and happy T-Day, Terry (the other one).