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Black. The city was a dull, flat black, as lively as a limp rag. The third dimension of the night skyline seemed to have been pressed down by the sheer weight of the burden that had been thrown onto my shoulders into a mere two dimensions. That very moment, someone who had reunited my family, been my dearest friend, and was the love my life was undergoing an unimaginable ordeal.
As I drove into the night, Anne was imprisoned in a hospital operating room, fighting to keep her failing heart beating. There were no “extra” hearts at our hospital or any nearby hospitals. This surgery was her last stand against death. And, in a cruel twist of irony, I was a perfect match for a transplant.
Truth be told, I had been so devastated by the news of Anne’s condition that I had rushed to be tested as a potential donor. When I found that I was a match, I had instinctively filled out the paperwork to be an organ donor. As soon as she had gone in for the last-attempt surgery, I had sped out of the hospital parking lot, determinedly clutching my donor card and a note of my final wishes. I was the white knight, off to rescue his princess. But the thought of facing death and the act of actually meeting death are two very different things.
Driving away from the city, I fought too. I fought to reconcile the two torn parts of me, waging a war between my heart and my head. One side of me wanted to give for once, to give Anne the second chance at life that I wholly believed she deserved. But the other side of me selfishly clung to life, desperately seeking a means of running away. Naively, I thought that I was brave enough, in love enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. And now, I was stuck in a limbo. Could I let her go? Could I let myself go? I felt as if I had flipped a coin and was anticipating, watching it somersault in the air. To be or not to be.
My mind argued a tempting case. Anne’s fate was predestined; it is her time already. Any choice I made could not change the outcome. No one can defy death. Yes, it will be tough to move on, but it is human nature to keep marching through the bumps and bends of life. Furthermore, I’ve got my own future to consider. There were so many places to go, so many things to experience. I had many dreams to accomplish. Besides, what made my life worth less than hers?
My heart countered. The power of human beings is their ability to make choices, to reshape fate. The course of a person’s life isn’t set in stone. I held the steering wheel in my own hands; I held to power to change things. If you truly love her, you would make this sacrifice. Why do you love her? Are you even sure you love her? And all the special things I remembered about Anne flooded my mind. All of her quirks: her odd fondness for the taste of Brussels sprouts, her ability to imitate Elmo, her spontaneous outbursts of random trivia she had picked up from watching Jeopardy. Her inner strength and her fighting spirit that nurtured her dreams while she lived in an orphanage, without the love and comfort of a home. The intensity and ferocity she channeled into chasing her dream of becoming a surgeon. And most of all, her infinite capacity to love and to share compassion.
That isn’t sound logic; those are just transitory feelings! my mind protested. But an inexplicable gut instinct told me that these feelings weren’t transitory. I wasn’t sure how I knew, but I was dead-certain that they were genuine. As I drove onto the interstate towards the city again, dawn broke. The bright rosy glow of the sun peeked out of the horizon, projecting its warm colors to blanket the buildings of the surrounding city skyline. The sunrise was unbearably beautiful. I took strength from this sight. The sunrise was Anne.
What made her life more worth saving than mine? I had been born into a life with everything: parents, opportunities, wealth, and even a brother. Yet, I had been ungrateful of the chances I was offered. Anne had entered the world with nothing, but she lived and valued what little she had as if she was the one who had everything. My dreams were selfish; I had entered medical school to appease my elders. I only wanted the fun and the upmost comforts of life, without the hard work. But Anne aspired to something greater than basic human desires. Her dreams were unselfish; she was willing to work hard not for herself but to help others. My existence would only help the selfish, cowardly me. Anne’s being in this world would touch the lives of all those around her. She was worth a hundred, a thousand, a million of me.
The coin in my head stopped and landed on a definite answer.
Placing the donor card and note securely inside my coat pocket, I stuffed the thick red scarf Anne had made for me down the front of my shirt and left my head and neck unprotected. I hoped that the Grim Reaper would appreciate Anne’s needlework enough to let me slip easily to the other side. Taking one last look at the sunrise, I pointed the car on the nearly deserted interstate in the necessary direction. I closed my eyes and felt the reassuring warmth of Anne’s love against my chest as I made my choice. Let there be life.
I let go of the steering wheel.