Ollie finds out why it’s better to give than to receive

Ollie Banks goes through a roller-coaster of emotions when wife Lizzie gives him an unexpected present, which turns out to be less of a pleasant surprise than he supposed it might have been. He should have seen the clue in the way the toast was cut, as it is in the picture…

Ollie was having a Sunday morning lie-in when Lizzie brought him toast and tea, the latter served in his favourite Aston Villa mug.

Ollie wasn’t relaxing much; their children Alice and Jack had joined him in bed to have a story read to them, which rather took the edge off his illicit snooze.

“I’ve got you a present,” said Lizzie, holding a small white envelope.

“A present?” Ollie was puzzled. “But it’s not my birthday. It’s very small, so it must be expensive. What could fit in something this small and still be a present? Is it airline tickets? Where are we going?”

“Stop with the questions! No, it’s not your birthday, and nor have you missed our anniversary. Open it,” she said, helping herself to a slice of his toast, taking care not to get crumbs into the bed; well, at least not on her side.

Ollie did as he was bidden, taking the contents from the envelope. “This is an organ donor card. How is this a present for me?”

“I didn’t say it was a present for you; I just said it was a present,” said Lizzie. “And so it will be, one day, for someone, when they get the chance to have your kidneys, or your eyes, or some other bits you won’t have a use for any more.” She waved a toast-filled hand in the general direction of his torso, adding to the crumbs.

Ollie looked from her to the card and back again. “That is so macabre. How can you say things like that? I still have a use for all the accessories I was born with. I don’t want to go to the doctors and find them whipping bits of me out and shoving them into some random person who has a need for them. I have a need for them!”

“Not yet, not yet,” she said. “No-one wants any bits of you yet – though your arms would come in handy in a few minutes; the bed will want stripping. It’s full of toast crumbs.”

“Stop changing the subject. What about this organ donor card?” He waved it under her nose. “I might decide not to fill it in; that way someone else can use it after I’m gone.”

“Very droll. You should fill it in. There are too many people in desperate need of new organs, and medical science can use yours to give them a new life. I think every responsible person should have a card, and let their bodies be used in that way. What if the boot was on the other foot, and you needed a new kidney? Or one of the children did? We’d want someone to have filled in the card then, wouldn’t we?”

Ollie conceded that she had a point, and she went on: “I’m trying to inject a lighter note into something that’s very serious. When we get to the point of making a decision like this, we don’t want it to be a shock. We need to be going into it with our eyes open; so that we’re ready for it and won’t have to make an awful decision when we’re not thinking straight anyway. I’ve filled in my card, and Grandma Lorna and Grandad Ron have done theirs too. It was Grandma Lorna’s idea actually, and I felt much the same as you did when she said I should do it, but after a while, well, I couldn’t see any reason not to, actually.”

Ollie sighed and said: “Gimme the pen.”

“Children in the room alert; did you mean to say ‘Gimme the pen please?’ I think you might have done.”

“I did. But I needed the pen to stir my tea, because you didn’t bring a spoon,” said Ollie. “I’ll do the card when I’ve eaten my… where’s my toast?”

His wife and children were eating a piece of toast each. Lizzie swallowed and said: “We’d have drunk the tea too, but none of us care for the Aston Villa mug. Even Jack, and he’s too little to read…”