I don't know why I found it so hard to ask, but I did. It took me several weeks, or maybe even months, to make the call. But I did.
A little over a year ago I joined a big study done through one of the major hospitals in the city of Toronto. It was a study involving what doctors lovingly call 'morbid obesity' and I had been approached to be part of that study. The study consisted of filling in a lot of questionnaires about life and weight, some of the questions being quite personal.It also involved an interview and a blood test.
The people running the study, well I guess I should say the nurse who is my contact to the study, is a truly kind individual who has never treated me with anything but real respect. She is easy to talk to and takes a genuine interest in me as a person. A while ago I was informed that they had found something in my DNA that they were zoning in on as it seemed to be present in others like me as well. So I was asked to consider asking my family to participate in the study by providing DNA samples.
That's a really personal request to make of someone.
And, it would involve me making myself quite vulnerable in talking about the study, about my weight and about the process of gathering DNA.
I finally made three calls.
I called my mother first. I explained to her the study, I explained what she would have to do, I explained why I thought it was important.
She agreed. Quickly and absolutely.
I called my father next. He was in the hospital and I could hear the sounds of the daily goings on in the ward behind him as we talked. I told him all he had to do was spit in a tube and that was the end of it. He said, "I guess I'll spit anywhere you want me to." That was that.
Then I called my brother. I left him for last after informing the nurse that my parents had said yes and did they want my brother. They did, I called. He like the others agreed quickly and easily.
As my father grew more ill, my brother called and said, "If you want Dad's DNA sample you better have them send the equipment quickly. I wrote the nurse and email, gave an address and encouraged her to send the DNA kit quickly.
It was clear, to all of us, that Dad would not wait for the mail to deliver the parcel with the materials that were needed for the study.
The night before he died, my brother, his wife and my mother had stayed at the hospital in the evening leaving the next morning. My brother sensing that he should go back, did. An hour before my father died, they discussed the DNA test and how much it seemed to mean to me.
They called the nurse and explained the situation. They asked if it would be possible for them to collect a sample of my father's DNA for the study. The nurses at Campbell River Hospital have been incredibly kind and compassionate through my father's long stay and they didn't blink an eye at the request. The nurse hurried out and then came back and took the sample.
It was done.
Minutes later my father died.
This act of generosity on the part of my brother and my father, in the minutes before my father's death astounds me.