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In the essay, Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin reluctantly attends his fathers funeral. When he is led up to the casket to view his father, he realizes his own mortality and the sad truth of the world around him.


He was simply an old man dead, and it was hard to believe that he had ever given anyone joy or pain. Yet, his life filled that room. Further up the avenue his wife was holding his newborn child. Life and death so close together, and love and hatred, and right and wrong, said something to me which I did not want to hear concerning man, concerning life. (Baldwin, 65)


Baldwins bitter realization�for everything good, there is bad�paints a bleak, but realistic picture of our existence as human beings. Baldwins perception of life and death so close together (Baldwin, 65) brings me back to an event in my past, where this irony presented itself clearly to me.


It was October th, 001 and my best friend, Kristas, health was diminishing more and more with every passing hour. She had been activated on the waiting list for a kidney/pancreas transplant over a year ago and the call had not come yet. Her kidneys were failing at a rapid rate and the only choice feasible was to start dialysis the next day. Since the age of four, she had been battling health issues�everything from stomach problems, gastroparesis, to eye problems, her retinas detaching�due to the diabetes. She never let her illness get her down. She fought it every step of the way. A stranger on the street would never know she was sick unless she told them, and even then, she played it off as if it was, as she would say, no big deal. I always admired her incredible strength and determined attitude. Dialysis was a different story though; Krista knew she could not fight this one. She would have to be hooked up to a machine to survive�until her organs came.


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That night, I saw a beautiful, vivacious and strong thirty-year-old woman turn into a frightened little girl. Her attitude was always upbeat and positive, but that night her voice was trembling, filling the phone with sadness and despair. Why wont they call me? she pleaded. I have been waiting over a year for the hospital to call and say, ‘Hello Krista. This is the nurse from UCSF. We have organs for you, please come to the hospital as soon as possible’!” Finally she proclaimed, “I can’t do it anymore; I have no more to give!” I could sense desperation in her voice. All I wanted to do was find the right words to comfort her and give her hope. I was her best friend scrambling for the right words to say. The only words I could strum up entailed, “It’s going to be okay.” and “You will be getting a call any day! You just have to be patient!”


The fact was I didn’t know if she was going to be “okay”. I was just as impatient as she was to get the call. How can I give someone�let alone my best friend�hope when I didn’t understand what I was hoping for! In order to save Krista, someone would have to lose his or her life, plain and simple. We had many morbid conversations trying to plan the timeframe of when the call would come. Every holiday weekend we would look at the statistics of accident-related deaths and predict that that was the weekend she would get called. Neither she nor I wished for someone to die, but if it had to happen, we prayed it would happen soon, so she could be saved. I would always wish her well on those particular weekends, with a simple gesture, “Have a great weekend. Give me a call if anyone dies.” This statement was not meant as a cruel joke, but more as an acknowledgement of a terrifying reality that awaited her.


Krista and I talked on the phone for another hour or so. The conversation mainly consisted of her expressing her fear and frustration of the situation. I was there to listen, which was what she needed the most. This was the first time I truly felt her pain and anguish. I had always been afraid of her disease and was reluctant to face the truth of her illness. If a donor didn’t appear soon, she could very well die. I am positive I will never truly understand the extent of emotions she felt, but if I was ever to grasp a tiny portion of that intensity, I felt it that night. I felt desperate and helpless.


The next morning was brisk and inviting. One more day until Halloween and I still had no idea what my costume was going to be. As I washed the night off in the shower, I recalled my cellular phone ringing quite early in the morning while I was still engaged in a deep sleep. It wasn’t abnormal for my cell phone to ring at such an odd hour. My boyfriend and I had broken up a few weeks prior, but he would still call at random times of the day to talk. This morning was different. Normally, I would ignore any messages until I got to work, but for some reason I decided to check them. The message I heard was more overwhelming than words can describe. “Hi Jamie,” I could hear Krista’s voice, soft as a mouse, calmly begin to speak, “I am heading to UCSF. I got the call. Please call me soon, I am so scared.” Even though we had practiced over and over again what she would say when she called me, nothing could prepare me for the moment I actually received that call. Adrenaline pumped through my body. It was hard to believe that such a phenomenal miracle could happen the morning after a night filled with so much despair and doubt. I listened to the message one more time just to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It was true, I heard correctly. Someone died and my friend would receive the organs she needed; her life would be saved. I must say, that thought brought about the most frightening and elating feelings�all at the same time.


I anxiously called her back, only to speak with her briefly. I needed to tell her everything I wanted to tell her, just in case something was to happen. What do you say when someone you love is heading off to get a kidney/pancreas transplant? I sat there crying on the phone. “I can’t believe this is happening!” is all I could spout out. “I love you and I know you will be okay. I am so proud of you!” Although my words were simple and few, she knew what I meant. She knew how much I loved her and she knew I was right by her side, whether it was physically or spiritually. The next twenty hours were painful and grueling.


Halloween day was like no other day I could possibly remember. I received a call from Krista’s cousin explaining that Krista was in intensive care and that the surgery was a complete success. All my anxiety was lifted and I was able to breathe again. Leave it to Krista to be the first pancreas/kidney transplant�ever�to be completed in less than seven hours, with no complications. Furthermore, she was out of the hospital in less than a week after her surgery. The approximate expected time for recovery in the hospital was two weeks…she was out in five days! I never expected any less from her, but at the same time, Krista will never know how petrified I was for her.


It has almost been two years since Krista’s transplant. She is more beautiful and outgoing than ever. I cannot say she has traveled an easy road, but I can say there is no one in this world I admire more than her. I am thankful every moment of the day for the donor who saved my friend’s life. It is truly a shame that someone had to lose his or her life to save my dearest friend. It is a shame, but a blessing at the same time. Since the transplant, Krista was fortunate to be able to contact the donor’s family and develop a relationship with them. She received the opportunity to experience and know her donor, Donio�as a person�through his family’s eyes. She will never forget the man who saved her life. Although, she feels blessed to have received this transplant, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept the fact that someone had to die. It is one of the cruel ironies of life we may never understand. In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin realizes and feels that the good and the bad go hand in hand in life�the death of his father and the birth of his sibling. As I look back at my experience with Kristas transplant, I can honestly say my feelings towards life have been altered to reflect an outlook similar to the one Baldwin experiences.





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