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Being truthful

Posted 01-15-2008 at 03:30 PM by One for Sorrow

My new semester of school started last Thursday. That, of course, means a lot of new classes, and lots of new people to have brief conversations with at the bus stop or in the few minutes before class starts. I'll never be accused of being particularly outgoing, but if someone tries to strike up a conversation with me, I certainly don't want to appear unfriendly. But, it invariably leads to a question about where I'm from, and when I answer that I'm from Oregon, logically the next question they ask is what brought me across the country to North Carolina.

I hate that question. I never know what to say. I try to avoid it altogether by asking them more questions about themselves in hopes that they won't get any questions in about me. Occasionally, I've told the truth, but I'm just as likely to lie through my teeth and say I moved here for school, or smile and tell them I moved here for a guy, implying that perhaps my boyfriend already lived here or needed to relocate for work or something. Sometimes I tell them it's a long story, or complicated or depressing. There is nothing that kills a conversation faster than "my fiance and I moved here because he was trying to get a lung transplant, but that didn't happen, and he died two years ago." It leads, almost without exception, to a mumbling of "Oh. I am so sorry", an avoidance of eye contact, and awkward silence as they anxiously await the start of class. I completely understand that reaction. I never know what to say after that, either.

But the problem with lying is that I feel terrible afterwards. I never, ever want to deny Allan's existence and the impact he had on my life. Yet, in one of my new classes on Thursday, upon sitting next to a young man who was too outgoing for my own good, I did just that. I tried my pat answer of, "I moved here for a guy". But, I was not expecting, "Oh. Are you still together?"

I hesitated.


Immediately I felt sick. It felt not at all like a little white lie to keep the conversation upbeat. It felt like a lie about something extremely important, the existence of the person who had the biggest impact of anyone on my life, someone I still love dearly. But, we are not together. Perhaps in an "he'll always be in my heart" way, but not in the traditional sense, not in a way that anyone would reasonably interpret that statement. I am with someone else. That someone else is a major reason I stayed in North Carolina, but he is not the reason I moved here. Any way you look at it, it was a lie.

I justified it as a self-preservation thing. I didn't want to get into all the details. Why should I, when it is someone I'll probably never speak to again? But, I felt like shit afterwards. I wanted to immediately apologize, say "I'm sorry. I just lied to you, but here's why..." I didn't, of course, but it has been bothering me for days.

This morning, while waiting for the bus from the park&ride lot to campus, the same scenario reared it's ugly head again. A girl, bundled from head to toe, eyed my thin sweater and jeans and wondered aloud if I just wasn't cold, or if I was from the north. I assured her I was just an idiot, and was from Oregon. Of course, that led to the inevitable question...

This time, I didn't lie. I told her first that it was a long story, but when she pressed me, I told her the truth. Then, an amazing thing happened. She listened carefully, and then admitted that she wasn't an organ donor, but allowed that perhaps she should become one. "I won't need my organs when I'm dead." She admitted, though, her fear that doctors would just help themselves to her organs if she were ever in a compromised position.

First of all, I was flabbergasted. No one has ever admitted to me that they aren't organ donors before. And this was a pharmacy student, presumably very well educated, who still believed one of the prevailing myths about organ donation. I tried to assure her that is a common fear, but it doesn't really happen, that so many people die waiting and it is one positive thing that can come out of tragedy, etc. Maybe I changed her mind, maybe I didn't, but I know it at least got her thinking about it, and it seems that is something she has never really done before.

I am stunned whenever I encounter someone who has never given it any consideration, or whose first gut reaction is that it is "creepy", or who believe that agreeing to be an organ donor will allow doctors to just "help themselves" even if they're in a position where they can recover. I was carrying an organ donor card years before meeting anyone needing a transplant. But, some people apparently never give it any thought.

I just realized today that being truthful Allan's death, even with strangers, can have a positive impact if I put the right spin on it. (I realized that before when I joined a campus organ donation awareness group, but I think I depressed all of them, as well). It doesn't necessarily need to lead to an awkward silence--I just need to learn how to talk about it in a manner that will lead to a constructive conversation about what can be done to help others in similar situations, and the importance of organ donation. Maybe there is still some positive that can come out of his death, too.
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  1. Old Comment
    Dingfod's Avatar
    Allan, just by being Allan, made a positive impact on my world and that of many others who encountered him. You do him proud with the way you're dealing with his death. I'm sure Allan would've wanted his situation to lead to people changing their minds and their ways.

    Hugs, Jess?
    Posted 01-17-2008 at 10:19 AM by Dingfod Dingfod is offline
  2. Old Comment
    One for Sorrow's Avatar
    Thanks, Warren. :huggle:
    Posted 01-17-2008 at 07:46 PM by One for Sorrow One for Sorrow is offline

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