Health is something we all aspire to have. Strong bodies serve us throughout our days, and truly are the tools of the work we do. However, there are times when these bodies fail. They don’t work, they take you away from your life, your tasks, your dreams. But this physical weakness can actually be the tool for greater good, greater inspiration, greater Life.
Loss seems tremendously unfair. It is tragic to lose those you love. But in the depth of the pain, sometimes our only option is to go higher, to see the bigger picture, to take a perspective we so rarely take. Could the body have been weakened so that the Spirit could be strengthened?
This afternoon I will attend a celebration of the life and the legacy of Kajal Patel, a young 7th grade girl, who passed away last week after many health difficulties. She was a student of my husband, a sister, a daughter, and a dear friend to so many of her peers. Drew, my husband, will be the emcee for the event, leading the group of hundreds to hear from those that loved her, and that she loved so much. At the funeral on Thursday, he said that he had never seen so many people, at least 500 hundred show up. Today we expect even more. It is evident that although small and young, this child reached endless amount of people.
Last year when her health took a turn for the worse, it was her closest 6th grade friends that were torn and moved to do everything in their power to help her. The truth is, they probably didn’t realize the depth of the power they had. The doctors had said that the last option to help her was to be a bone marrow transplant, but that the odds in finding a match were so slim, so not to count on it.
a friends knew differently. Organizing with their families, teachers, school and community leaders, these children led the brigade to find a match. In their endless pursuit to save their friend, they organized the largest and quickest bone marrow drive in history. Setting a new Guinness world record for the number of swabs taken in a day, these students who had set out to change the life of one person, touched thousands. They appeared on TV, newspaper, internet and more. They became well-known in the community for the endless support and their dogged determinism to find a match.
In the end they did. They found not only one match, but four for their friend. In addition, through their efforts they entered thousands of more bone marrow donors, who would have never been in the registry without them. All of us became aware of what it means and how hard it is to find a match for those that need the transplant. We learned how easy it was to do the operation of transfer from the donors part. And we learned in with just a swab of a q-tip on the inside of our cheek, a 3 second process, we could see if somehow we had something that someone else desperately needed.
The Be The Match Bone Marrow Program was brought to the forefront of our minds and community during the drive, but it didn’t stop there. One UGA student was called a few months later, having been persuaded to swab after initially declining, and heard from that he was a match for a young boy on the East Coast. He was flown to a hospital, and generously underwent the procedure for the transfer. He saved a little boy’s life all because of that 30 second exchange in front of the Student Center.
If we follow logic down its path, we see that in reality it was Kajal that helped that boy survive. It was her love and then physical weakness that inspired thousands upon thousands to use their bodies for her. It was her love that pushed her peers and others to do the unimaginable. It was Kajal that changed the world of so many.
This is why I cannot help but think of Psalm 73:26. “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
There is no end of the tools and methods of the Spirit, even in the most tragic of situations. We may never know why this happened, but I don’t think that is the right question to ask right now. Asking “why?” will bring us down into a spiral of questions that we simply cannot know the answer to.
We can, however, ask ourselves, how far did the reach of this girl go? How deep did her love penetrate the souls of others, whether they ever met her or not. How strong is the Spirit, that through one small 6th grader, it can alter, change and improve the lives of thousands?
Health is a Divine Gift. Yet the absence of health does not change the presence of God within or around us. There is no end to the tools the Divine will use to spread love, grace and joy. While we may never understand the choice of using a life, it is forever evident that she served her Divine purpose with grace, love and a self-sacrifice that we are all in awe of.
The campaign the students ran had a tag line of “Be A Hero for Kajal“. I cannot help but feel the second part of this statement is missing. “Be a hero for Kajal, because she has been a hero for you.” The fearlessness, the strength and the love this child has, at such a young age, is of an example we all hope to hold in this life. Her life was truly a gift and today, while we celebrate it, we remember this heroine. We remember that anything is possible no matter what limits of body, age, mind, are in front of us. We honor the Spirit that has been awakened in all of us by the enthusiasm, love and life of Kajal Patel.