Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘A Life Everlasting’ by Sarah Gray

c.2016, HarperOne
$27.99 ($34.99 Canada)
288 pages

It was a very bad time.

One of the worst of your life, in fact, and you will never forget it. You’ll do what you can to move on, though. You’ll be OK eventually, because though it was a very, very bad time, you’ve managed to find a sliver of good from it.

BOOK REVIEW: 'A Life Everlasting' by Sarah Gray
BOOK REVIEW: ‘A Life Everlasting’ by Sarah Gray

But, as in the new memoir “A Life Everlasting” by Sarah Gray, the best of news is sometimes followed by the worst.

For two years, Sarah Gray and her husband, Ross, had been trying for a baby. Just one was all they had room for in their tiny Washington DC apartment, but when Gray’s OB-GYN found another heartbeat, they began to prepare for twins — until a routine screening showed that Baby A had a lethal birth defect and would probably die at birth.

Initially informed that the fetus (Thomas, as they named him) might threaten the life of his brother, the Grays considered selective termination. It was the best option, they were told, but it was ultimately not possible so Gray carried her twins to term and gave birth to two babies, both miraculously alive.

Against all prior forecasts, Thomas Ethan Gray lived for six days.

Because of a conversation she had with her mother when she was still pregnant, Gray had looked into donating her son’s organs, with the hopes of creating some meaning around his little life. Alas, at under five pounds, Thomas was too small for organ donation but his cord blood went for research on anencephaly. Gray was told later that his eyes also went for research, as did his liver.

Author, Sarah Gray /Courtesy Photo
Author, Sarah Gray /Courtesy Photo

Six weeks after her son’s passing, Gray felt restless. She began to realize that she had no idea what had happened to Thomas’s donations, and she wondered if her son was a life-saver or if his tissues would even help someone, sometime. And so, with a few phone calls to medical facilities and a keen desire to know, she went to find out…

Here’s an unusual premise for a book: you know what’s going to happen. You already know that author Sarah Gray’s son dies. You know the family donates his tissues. But what you don’t know is where those cells went, and if you’ve ticked the box on your driver’s license, there’s your reason for reading “A Life Everlasting.”

Religion tells you where you go when you die, but Gray tackles another aspect of life after death in the bravest way possible, in a no-holds-barred journey that no parent wants to consider. And yet, this isn’t a sad book, overall, which surprised me; instead, it’s really a celebration of a short life and a long legacy, of love and trust, and of generosity.

To that end, Gray also writes about privacy, HIPAA, and becoming an organ donor; that plus a glossary of acronyms all makes it even easier to love “A Life Everlasting.” It’s a great book for parents, medical personnel or anyone wanting to turn a very bad thing into a very good book.

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