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A Life Everlasting


Book Review by The Bookworm Sez

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 okay eventually because it was a very, very bad time but, as in the
new memoir A Life Everlasting by Sarah Gray, you’ve managed to find a
sliver of good from it.

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.

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. 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. 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

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

By Sarah Gray
© 2016, HarperOne,
288 pages, $27.99 / $34.99 Canada