Each time I’ve tried to write about my father’s heart transplant, I’ve found myself spending more time tapping the backspace key than I’ve spent assembling coherent sentences. As soon as I start to type something personal, it feels like I’m setting the scene for a melodrama on Telemundo. If I try to say something less personal that I think could be useful for anyone who needs support coping with adversity, it comes across as a diluted and generic cliché. In my father’s inspiring story, I struggle to find my voice as merely a supporting character, and I don’t know how to explain to an outsider how profoundly his journey impacted my life because I don’t want to take away from what he endured and make the experience about me.
So how do I begin to illustrate the engrossing, gnawing sense of urgency that swallowed the hollows of my stomach when I wondered whether it would be the day my father received a new heart, or if it would be the day he simply couldn’t fight anymore?
What’s the onomatopoeia to describe the sound of the eerie, unnerving silence that engulfed my family’s home every time the phone rang, praying in those moments that it was his fateful call about finding a match?
Is there a Latin derivative for the contradiction between desperately yearning to fast forward to a time when this nightmare was over, but simultaneously being so terrified by the uncertainty of the future that I wanted to press pause on our lives forever?
How do you spell the word that describes the unremitting resilience and emotional strength my father exuded, even as his physical strength deteriorated, after cyclically receiving disappointing news? Can you use the word for “never once complained or assumed the role of a victim” in a sentence, please?
Who can tell me how to rationalize the crushing guilt I felt for waking up, going to work, sleeping in my own bed, and retaining some degree of normalcy while my mother so selflessly put her most basic needs aside to unconditionally support her husband in the hospital every single day?
How do I explain the process of trying to make peace with the fact that my family’s miracle came at the expense of another family’s tragedy?
But what I struggle with most is finding words to describe the overwhelming pride I have in my family for finding hope amidst such dire circumstances and becoming even stronger and more united. And there’s unquestionably nothing in Webster’s dictionary to explain the ecstasy of once again hearing my father’s infectious, hearty laugh that I thought I had lost forever to the sound of weak coughs and EKG beeps.
Because my words have failed me and because a little blog entry only cheapens how I’d like to honor everyone affected by my dad’s heart transplant, please accept this tattoo as a symbol of the permanent mark it has left on my heart. It’s not only a celebration of my father’s life, but also of his donor’s life, who became a life-saver at the tender age of eighteen. It’s a thank you to my mother, whose unwavering strength became my source of strength during a very emotional year. And above all, it’s a constant reminder that embedded at the heart of every tragedy is a seed that stores the potential to grow something beautiful.
A special thank you to Dia Moeller, who created this beautiful custom tattoo that so perfectly captures what my words could not.
If you’d like to become a registered organ donor, you can do so here.