Blood Brother

They never tell you where it's going. Reduced to a number, you donate anonymously. To complete the perfection of the gift, the recipient doesn't know who gave, either. The nurses and technicians know, and sometimes scraps of information escape their lips: " . . . one-year-old child . . . " ". . . that woman in Kentucky who still hasn't found a match . . ." But none of this refers directly to you, and you don't know anything for sure. When you give blood, you give the most vital element an animal possesses. You give it without knowing where it's going, and for no return whatsoever except the pleasure of entering intimate communion with somebody, somewhere, who will die unless you help. Their body learns to accept your gift, and thereafter makes no great distinction between "self" and "other." You become part of another person in both a spiritual and a physical sense. You have saved them, and thereby assume a degree of responsibility for their actions and destinies, though you will never know in this life who or where they may be. On the Day of Judgment, when graves yawn open and the dead arise to meet their maker, a whole lot of folks are going to wake up in some small confusion as to who they really are, because quite a few of them are partly me.

On the occasion of my 64th donation of whole blood or platelets, November 21, 1996.