Have you ever had a moment when something from the Bible you know to be true, takes on a much deeper meaning, or impacts you at a deeper level?
This happened to me when I was privileged to attend a service in St Stephen’s, Redditch celebrating the lives of transplant recipients, organ donors and their families. Gifts Beyond Price was the brainchild of Elaine Whitfield, a relatively new member of the church, and she planned the most beautiful and moving event, attended, to her surprise, by people from all over the country. Elaine’s father, Arthur, died in 2016. For the last twenty-five years of his life, his blood was pumped around his body by a donor heart – he had benefitted from a transplant which had saved his life, and given him many more years than anticipated. It was this that Elaine wanted to express her thankfulness for, both to donor families, and to God.
In a profound symbolic act as part of the service, Natasha, recipient sixteen years ago of a donated heart and lungs when in her early twenties and close to death, lit eight candles, representing the lives one donor can save. Wendy, the mother of Jack, who died in a tragic accident last year, and whose organs were donated, then extinguished a large central candle, amidst hugs and tears, after speaking movingly to each other as representatives of each group, giving thanks for the lives involved. The Lead Retrieval Surgeon and Transplant Specialist from the QE hospital articulated some of the challenging dilemmas involved for his team, and both the joys, sorrows and weighty responsibility he experiences in making time-sensitive decisions about life and death amidst tragedy. As a Muslim, he spoke powerfully about our shared humanity. The Reverend Paul Lawlor picked this up in his address too. Never have Jesus’ words in John 15 had such resonance: “There is no greater love than this, that someone should lay down their life for their friends.”
Jesus, in a sense, donated his life, that we might live life in all its fullness forever. Talking with many after the service who had received the gift of new life through the gift of a friend, or the death of a stranger, the love of God for each person he has made impacted me afresh. God so loved the world, that he gave his Son …
I resolved that day to live my life more fully, more gratefully, more aware of what it cost. I also spoke to my family making clear that should they ever be put in that awful place of decision, my bodily organs should, if possible, be used to bring life to others, as my life with God will continue into eternity, because Jesus laid down his life and lives in me.
Archdeacon of Dudley