Facing death: ‘Organ donation prolongs life, deepens faith'
Written by Diane Gallo Ryder
June 2002


Easter arrived early for me this year. The calendar listed Easter as March 31, but my Easter arrived on Feb. 20. That was the day I received a kidney transplant from my friend and colleague at Rincon UCC in Tucson, Ariz.

Cathy had missed the staff meeting when I announced my need for a transplant and my lack of suitable related donors, so I was not even aware that she knew of my need. Then she approached me one Sunday and said, "I have prayerfully decided to be tested to see if I can donate a kidney to you."

By the time Cathy uttered her graceful, fateful words, my family and I already had prepared for my death. We had finalized legal and financial matters, chosen a faith-based hospice, paid for my cremation, put plans in place for the physical and emotional care of our 10-year-old daughter, and recorded decisions about my memorial service in a manila folder marked "Death."

Also in that folder was a letter to my family, in which I tried to explain why I chose not to undergo dialysis, an artificial kidney machine which prolongs but greatly restricts one's life. Although I deeply love life, I based my decision upon my faith that physical life per se is not the ultimate good and "Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's."

After Cathy was given a clean bill of health, on Sunday, Feb. 10, we told the congregation. Cathy expressed the support we would need when she said, "It takes a congregation to donate an organ."

Our respective surgeries went smoothly, thanks to the surgeons and staff at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. Afterward, each of us returned home to mailboxes full of cards and refrigerators full of food. Each of us was placed upon more prayer chains, from more different faiths, than we could count.

We both feel privileged to be part of a sacred, life-giving resurrection experience that has deepened our faith and strengthened our church. Now we urge you to join us. Please prayerfully consider the possibility of organ donation, either as a living donor, or post-mortem by signing an organ donation card. (Download an organ donor card at www.organdonor.gov/

The need is great. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, patients await 79,226 needed organs. Every day 63 people receive organs while 16 people die waiting.

Signing a donor card is good stewardship, which would allow you to save or enhance 50 lives after you move on to eternal life. In our experience, organ donation prolongs life, deepens faith, builds community and draws us closer to God.

The Rev. Diane Gallo Ryder serves as Minister of Pastoral Outreach at Rincon UCC in Tucson, Ariz., where Cathy Kent, her donor, serves as Director of Family Ministries.

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