How one message helped save my life
In 2014, I found a message at just the right moment and it helped save my life.
This is an essay about second chances and the power of kindness. Also an excerpt from a book I’m writing called “Choose Your Scar; Grow From There: A Memoir”
I don’t have much time left to live, if you want to call my existence living.
Months have passed on the waiting lists at Cleveland Clinic and the University of Kentucky, waiting for a match for a new liver. Mine is nearly dead.
There have been two possibilities so far. Two phone calls. Two times we scrambled and raced only to be turned away. One liver wasn’t viable and I don’t remember the reason for the second rejection.
But I do remember the five hour, middle of the night drive home from Cleveland, the floor of my side of the car a damp white cloud of wadded tissues.
Frequent visits to the clinic are mandatory to determine rank on the waiting list based on many factors like lab results from blood work. Every trip sucks life from my unsteady body.
I am ready to stop it all. The endless needle pokes. The blood transfusions; I’ve had 67 so far. The thin, backless gowns. The constant struggle to be warm. The not knowing.
In the restroom at the clinic I stare in the mirror.
My skin is a weird yellow from the jaundice, my face gaunt. Through eyes now bloodshot I see wispy hair combed over to hide bald patches on a dry scalp. I have never looked uglier.
As tears fall I say out loud, “This must be how it ends for me, this is it,” to the stranger who stares back.
I am never going to get the call. There will never be a match. My hope is gone.
I lean over and splash water on my face. When I open my eyes I see it. A rock. Right there on the sink. A rock where no rock should be. It’s painted blue and has white cut-out letters attached to its surface. My mind takes a minute for the words to register.
Don’t ever give up.
Time comes to a standstill. Who left this here? No one else is in the restroom. I pick it up. There are no words written on the back. I look around and see no other rocks. I stare at it in the palm of my hand.
Don’t ever give up.
Even though my brain is foggy, I grasp the magnitude of this magic. This divine providence. The message is not lost on me. The timing impeccable. Somewhere deep within my unreliable body, a dam explodes and every cell floods with warmth. A tingle of hope goosebumps my flesh.
I stash the newfound treasure in my jacket pocket and walk with a lighter step back to the waiting room.
To this day I have no idea who took the time to put a message on a rock then leave it in a restroom at the University of Kentucky Transplant Center.
But I’ve kept this rock as a reminder of a stranger’s kindness and how it nudged me toward the path to keep living. A simple but powerful reminder that good things will happen. And they did. I received a liver transplant later that year.
I never gave up.
A few years after my surgery I read about a woman in Massachusetts, Megan Murphy, who wrote inspirational messages on rocks and anonymously placed them here and there in her community for people to find.
She spoke about how one message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life.
Yes. Yes, it can.
I joined The Kindness Rocks Project™️ as a way to give back, but really, the act of creating art on rocks gave back to me. Gave me back the spark to create. I began thinking of others instead of focusing on my troubles. I was still healing and actually, I still am.
It’s been almost seven years now, and even though the skin on my abdomen has rebuilt, the scar reminds me I’m still a work in progress. Slowly weaving myself back together. Just like my body didn’t give up on itself, I’m not giving up on me either.