STORY: David Stringer

Doing the Right Thing
The Cathedral of Saint Paul inspires a mood of reverence that is entirely appropriate for the Donor Recognition Ceremony.
Whether you are a religious person or not, the splendor of the setting affirms the spiritual nature of the gift that each donor and donor family has made. As Mary Ganikos of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says, "The spirit of doing the right thing is alive and well."

The elaborate Renaissance style cathedral, with its enormous space beneath a massive dome overlaid with gold leaf and its towering bronze and marble baldachin, confirms that these are sacred moments. Beneath all this dramatic power, the series of speakers appears small, reminding us of how fragile we are and how precious the spark of life. At the same time, their amplified voices resonate clearly the power of each individual to make a profound difference in the world.

The Donor Recognition Ceremony first and foremost celebrates individuals. The Honor Roll of Donors states the name of those who have given the gift of life, and the Video Tribute further honors specific loved ones. The reading of the poem, "Just Remember Me," reaffirms the value and meaning of the individual life, as do the stories donor families and organ and tissue recipients share with us.

The beauty of the interior helps to transform the 2700 participants into a community. They share their sense of loss and their commitment to "doing the right thing" just as they share their two hours together engulfed in the mysteries of light and dimension, of voices spoken and sung, They move through the Gift of Life Ceremony in an elaborate choreography of families. In the Responsive Reading, the words repeated by all are "We are connected by love."

This is the balance: the pain of individual sacrifice against the value of loving generosity.

The religious atmosphere is tempered by sounds from the world outside of the cathedral. You hear the sounds of cars and buses roaring by on their way to important places. You hear the voices of children just outside the door. And on the bus back from the Ceremony the voice of life continues in Thomas Roden's splendid imitation of a crowing rooster.

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Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:05:42 EST