The Best Thing I Never Did

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Back in the early 90s, I spent a little over two years as a licensed driver. During that same era, there were no fewer than five Grateful Dead posters on the walls of my teenage bedroom. Not to mention a couple featuring the Doors and the Beatles, too.

Maybe it’s because 16 year old guys aren’t known for making good life choices, or maybe it was because I was more focused on music than about anything else, or maybe it’s just because I was lazy, but that time also holds a bit of shame. Not for something I did, but for something I didn’t do.

When I got my license from the DMV, there was a signature space on the back. Sign it, have someone witness it and, just like that, if anything were to happen to me, someone else could use my organs.

Of course, “something” is never going to happen, right?

Had my life ended in that south St. Louis intersection, my organs would have died, too. I have family members who have received organ transplants. I was 18 and healthy and my kidneys, liver, etc. could have kept another person alive for years to come. But? I never signed my name. I HATE this fact of my history.

A.D.D. story: Speaking of the Grateful Dead, you may have seen that the surviving members of the band just played some of their last shows. With 50 years of music to choose from, Deadheads like me were ecstatic to have the boys come out of retirement.

If you don’t “get” the whole Grateful Dead thang, please allow me to shed a little light here. When a band has anything to do with death in their name, you’d probably be able to guess they’re some ultra heavy, dark and scary thrash metal. But, if you assumed this about the Grateful Dead, you’d be wrong.

Instead, the Dead are a bunch of peace loving hippies who are more likely to sing about gentle harmonies. Sure, their logo has a skeleton, but they also are visually represented by teddy bears, roses and brightly colored tie dye.

One thing I’ve always loved about the band is that they are solely focused on the music. You’ll never find a member of the Grateful Dead using the mic and his influence to push any sort of political agenda. They’ve always just allowed the music to speak for itself.

So, after the first show, it was a little out of the ordinary when Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bassist, came to the mic to thank the fans for 50 years of support and love. Then, he told the story that, to me, has the potential to save tens of millions of lives.

He told the story of how a young man named Cody’s choice to become an organ donor was the whole reason he is alive. Phil had Cody’s liver transplant several years ago. He then asked everyone in the audience to turn to their friends and say, “If anything ever happens to me, I want to be an organ donor!” And, hippies being compassionate, loving souls, they did!

Did that just go to the audience in the stands that night? Nope! The concert was being viewed on pay per view around the world. People could stream the shows from anywhere on earth. Theaters and concert venues across the country were televising the historic event…and in the process? An incredible amount of awareness was raised about organ donation.

None of us know what the future will bring. Today, I’m just glad to know if my life is lost, someone else will continue to live. The gift of life is, after all, the greatest thing we can give another.

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