Visiting My Grave

In loving memory
Melissa Robbins Eatherington
October 24, 1982-February 14, 2009.

That is how my headstone would have read. It would be twelve years old now (the stone no doubt beginning to weather and perhaps looking a bit unkempt, since my household no longer lives in NC — or maybe my dad would tend it; he doesn’t live too far from where my ashes would be interred).

Is that macabre? Does it disturb you? Good. I want to unsettle you with the knowledge of just how close I came to dying twelve years ago today, and how lucky I was that donor blood and quick thinking were present in that hospital. I’ve made my peace with what happened; I don’t “dwell” on it, but my story should be a powerful reminder that blood donation MATTERS. It is the reason I’m here today, the reason my children weren’t half-orphaned at ages 3, 1, and one day old.

There is no artificial analog for human blood. If it’s there when it’s needed, lives are saved. If it’s not, people die. It’s that simple.

In this photo I was exhausted and in a world of pain from the emergency surgery I’d been through (and the staples across my abdomen that pulled if I moved wrong). I was so weak I could barely hold my baby and I could not stand up without help…but I was ALIVE and deliriously glad to be. This photo is a triumph, and a reminder that nobody can take their life for granted. I was a healthy 26-year-old when I entered the hospital, and my induction went smoothly. Nobody — least of all me — would have guessed what was in store the next day.

May be an image of 3 people and people smiling

That kind of experience changes you — you can’t be the same person you were Before. I’m better at letting the little things go because it’s almost all “little” in the grand scheme of things. Even bad days are better than not being present. I have a quiet peace, a deep steadiness I’m not sure I had prior to these events. And I have little fear of diving into the unknown. If there’s a chance for something amazing, I’m going to leap for it.

Life is for the living, and I intend to make the most of mine. I’ve had TWELVE bonus years so far (!!) because of the five generous blood donors whose gift saved me. I fully anticipate having another half century more. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, though, so hug your loved ones and do the things you’ve been putting off that you’ve always wanted to do. Not everyone will get tomorrow to do them.

“I hope to arrive at my death late, in love, and a little drunk.” (author unknown)

May you live every day of your life. And please, if you’re able, consider donating blood! (There are many reasons people do not; I don’t judge one way or the other. But if you’ve just never thought about it, now’s a great time to start!)