Ray Bradbury’s story “The Visit” tells of a woman who travels around, visiting the recipients of her son’s organs after he passed away. In the story, the characters experience something haunting, unreal, awkward, and yet very touching as they interact, referring to the gift of life (or sight) that the woman’s son has afforded the recipients. While nothing can heal the pain of loss, knowing that a part of the person lives on reminds the characters that we are all more connected than we realize.
Last week, I read a news story about a woman in Alaska who on the day of her wedding received a visit from the recipient of her late son’s heart. The visit was arranged by her fiancé, and it included the chance for her to hear her son’s heart beating on the day of her wedding, even though her son had passed away prior to the big day.
The story is heartwarming to me. This time, it’s a case of someone making a physical difference in the life of another—and then the favor being paid back, two strangers connecting as they realize their significance to each other. But in a broader sense, it’s a reminder of the fact that we all interact and influence each other, even if we don’t realize it.
We tend to remember the things that stand out—whether good or bad. I’ve often referenced the fact that I can recall my excellent teachers but not my mediocre ones; at the same time, I can also recall the terrible, terrifying teachers—even the ones I never had but whose actions and reputations made me fear the simple act of walking down the hall.
Though I’ve never received an organ donation, I have received many “gifts” from others in the form of advice, encouragement, anecdotes, and support. And these, too, have been life-changing.
As I reflect on all the people who have had positive impacts on me, I like to think about the ways I interact with others. What, if anything, will they remember about our interactions? In ten, fifteen, twenty years, will our interaction be among those that have inspired them? Each interaction is like a seed: some will take, some won’t; but I hope those that do grow into flourishing branches with beautiful flowers.