Today's character guest is Richard, one of the two narrators from Second Hand Heart, a book that covers a lot of emotional ground. Richard made the decision to donate his wife's organs after her death and meets Vida, the recipient of the heart. He's here today to give us a little more information about how he feels now.
Why did you initially decide to meet Vida? Your mother in law knew you wanted to meet her, and yet she only warned you against meeting the heart recipient. I know why the heart was the 'most important' organ for you, but why didn't you try to even meet the other recipients?
I know this sounds overly simple, but…Vida asked. Well, her mother asked. Abigail. If I’d been invited to meet the old woman in Tiburon who received Lori’s corneas, I might have. But still. There’s that fascination with a heart. Someone’s heart. It’s just a bit more to the point about a person than their corneas. Somebody told me about this interesting little experiment: if you ask people to point to themselves, they’ll almost always point to their own hearts. Rarely their brains, though we say we put so much stock in brains. Never their corneas.
We don’t use the phrase “the heart of the matter” for nothing.
Frankly, I think Myra would have warned me against anything that brought my loss more sharply into focus. That’s just who she is. She means well, and she was a lot of support for me. But she dealt with the loss of her daughter by keeping it at a distance. Sometimes people have to walk right into the sorrow if they want to heal.
In fairness, I only asked her advice about Vida. And I think it was my level of investment in the situation that set off her warning bells. I think I decided to meet Vida because of sheer curiosity. I knew the curiosity was not going to leave me alone. Or maybe I thought it would make me feel better. And it did. But not in the short run.
If you were able to do something differently in your relationship with Vida, what would you change?
Oh, God. So much. Everything.
I would have believed her. Trusted her to know what she was feeling. Really listened to her when she tried to tell me what her world was like. I treated her like a foolish child. And, well, in some ways she was. But she’d never really been given a chance to grow up. In other ways she knew more than I did.
God, I would do that whole thing over if I could. But I can’t. And, Vida being Vida, she doesn’t blame me. It’s not in her to hold a grudge.
If Vida never again made contact, would you continue to express an active interest in her life?
Oh, absolutely. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Wonder where she is. If she’s okay. And not just the heart, either. The girl wrapped around it, too.
What do you think the most important part of your story? The most important thing for people to take away from reading about this experience?
I think the key lies in the difference between Myra and me. When we advise others about loss, how often are we really telling them to ignore it, or distract themselves? When we advise each other on our actions, aren’t we usually telling each other not to take a risk, so we won’t get hurt?
I know we mean well. But in my experience, the greatest changes and experiences in life happen when we take risks and get hurt. I’m glad for the whole experience with Vida, painful as it was. I’m a different person as a result of that. I wouldn’t subtract that pain from my experience for all the money on earth. It woke me up to life. This was the first time you had ever tried keeping a journal. Do you think it is something you would want to continue or resume in the future? Or is it something that you feel will be reserved for this portion of your life?
I think it’s one of those things like breaking down a dam. I don’t think I will ever manage to dam up my feelings again. Now that they’re flowing, I think I’ll always journal. As Ram Dass (or Richard Alpert, for starchy academics like myself) once said. “The trouble with awakening is that you just can’t seem to get back to sleep.”
Thanks so much for sharing! I love the extra details and information you've given us!