Use Me From "A Journey of Reflections" by Jim Moeller
“God, I want to be used to do more. Please use me to
do more.” I have repeated this prayer for as many
years as I can remember. The components, I am certain,
were introduced to me somewhere in my childhood.
“God, I want to be used to do more. Please use me
to do more.” Although not always obvious, in the course
of my workday this prayer was being answered. Owning
a small music label that creates relaxation music to help
support people’s healing, I may talk to as many as 50
people a day. Many of these callers did not seek us for
entertainment, coming instead to find support with the
psychological or physical pain they were carrying.
Day after day, year after year, the prayer remained
the same: “God, I want to be used to do more. Please
use me to do more.”
Then, without warning, the prayer took on new
meaning as my brother-in-law, Carl, lay in a hospital bed
waiting for an organ transplant due to a genetic illness.
Carl was special. Besides being a blood relative, he was
married to my ex-wife’s sister, and we had known each
other our entire life.
Due to the company he worked for, and for me the
military, we both ended up in California living within a
few miles of each other. We did many things together,
including jogging, coaching baseball, and drinking. Yes,
lots of drinking! Therefore, when Carl realized he had a
drinking problem and chose sobriety, many of the old
social events that centered around alcohol no longer
Over time, my drinking followed his, and as my
life started to spin out of control, he was there to
introduce me to the same 12-Step program that had become
so important in his life. Our friendship then changed.
We no longer spent hours drinking; we now went to
12-Step meetings and spent hours talking about a
different way of life.
Just as Carl had been there for me, I wanted to
return the favor to him. God, I want to be used to do
more. Please use me to do more.
With a country as big as ours, it seemed hard to
imagine that a liver would not eventually become
available. In my mind, it was just a matter of time.
Days came. Days went. No donor.
God, I want to be used for more. Please use me to do more.
Another day. Another week. No donor. I want to do more.
God, I feel so helpless.
God, where is a donor?
God I want to do more. Why can't I help?
Just because my blood type is different, why can't part
of my liver be used?
A donor was never found.
As I stood in front of Carl's casket on the day of
the funeral, I could only feel the personal failure of
wanting to help save his life as he had helped save
God, why didn’t you answer, surely there had to be someone
who was willing to help.
God was quiet.
Before the lid was closed on the casket, I heard myself
repeat the daily prayer with a slight twist. God, I am
sorry you did not use me, but if the day ever comes that
I can prevent another family from experiencing this
nightmare, I will be ready.
God remained quiet.
Several years went by and then, in early 2001, just
before heading out on an early Sunday morning jog, I
had a fleeting thought that I should buy a newspaper
on the way back. Seldom buying a paper, I tried to
push the thought out of my mind.
When the thought would not subside, I gave in by
putting several quarters in my pocket before heading
into the mountains for a long run.
As expected, the newspaper was more than an inch
or two thick, filled with layers and layers of word-filled
nothingness. Arriving at the last insert, the Parade
section, I almost tossed it before deciding to scan it.
There it was—a story about organ transplants with the theme
centered on how a few people, non-relatives, were starting
to emerge as living donors for people they had never
met. New anti-rejection drugs had continued to improve
and someone who would have died a few years
earlier could now survive a transplant from less-than
As I read the story, memories of the helplessness I
felt as Carl slipped away were rekindled. As I read the
story, I mentally revisited every word of the silent prayer
I had offered in front of the casket: "God, please use
me, and if the day ever comes that I can help another
I left the newspaper article on my desk for several
days, not certain what I should do, but knowing something
would come of it.
By the end of the week, I reread the article several times. With no plan, I finally called the University of Southern California Medical Center, knowing it to be a prestigious school. After a few telephone transfers, I reached a
person who knew all the answers. Even a few that I did not
want to hear.
I explained that I had called to inquire about their
living donor program, and before I could ask any additional
questions, I had already been disqualified as a
liver donor because of my age and my history of alcoholism.
I felt my heart drop, as if they had pronounced a
death sentence to my prayer.
Then the doctor continued, "Even though you do
not qualify as a liver donor, there is a chance that you
could qualify as a kidney donor."
The doctor reiterated that due to anti-rejection
drugs, recipients no longer had to have that nearly
perfect match that only family members could offer.
After a burst of questions and telephone calls, the
idea of being a donor was starting to become a reality.
The telephone rang nearly every day as I received calls
from either the doctors or the staff members as they
continued to delve into my personal health, as well as
my motives for becoming an organ donor.
Then, without warning, USC became very distant,
no longer calling and seldom returning calls initiated by
me. I was later told that this was their way of allowing
me to reconsider the decision I was contemplating.
Finally, as if they rediscovered a lost file, I was
asked to come in to the hospital on numerous occasions
to determine if I would be a quality donor. I had
no idea there were so many physical tests and so many
psychological questions that could be asked.
Besides all the normal tests that included various
things stuck into unusual places, I spent hours, on one
occasion, periodically drinking a beverage that resembled
orange pop from my childhood. Tasting similar, it
was densely packed with some form of sugar that was
then measured as my body processed it. On another
occasion, just before they slid me into a tube for some
form of imaging, they told me they were going to give
me an injection that would give my body symptoms
similar to a woman having hot flashes. He did not lie!
My body felt as if the tube they slid me into was actually
a microwave oven in disguise and they had set it on
Psychologists and psychiatrists asked me questions
until they could not think of any more. I learned later
they were trying to determine if I was doing this to help
another, or if I was dealing with guilt from my past.
After nearly a year of waiting and testing, I received
a telephone call from Toni, the USC coordinator
for this program. Kiddingly, she said, "Jim, you passed.
You graduated. You are considered to be donor material."
Responding to her comment, I asked, "You mean, like in
school, I passed? Will we have a ceremony like with cap
She laughed, but quickly moved to a more serious
note asking, "Jim, are you still okay with this? If you
are, we can start looking for a match."
A match, I thought. As if to fight the fears of the
path I had chosen, I answered her question with a bit
of sarcasm. "Heaven help the person who would have
a close match to me. Sure, if you think you can find
someone, have at it."
During the next several weeks, the Medical Center
worked behind the scenes to find the best possible
match to assist in reducing the rejection rate.
Then on May 24, I received a call from Toni telling
me that a good match had been found and she again asked,
"Jim, are you okay with this? You know you can still
After giving an answer that would change the lives
of many, she told me that the transplant had officially
been scheduled for May 29, 2002, just five days later.
She then said, "Jim, this is a very serious life-and-death
surgery and I must remind you that it is important that
you get your personal things in order."
Without thinking I said, "Toni, I have two comments.
First, I think this is more of a life-and-life surgery
instead of life-and-death, and, secondly, if I live to
be a hundred I will not have my life in order and now
you want me to accomplish that by next Wednesday?
There isn’t a chance of that."
After both of us stopped laughing, I asked if I
could have the person's name so I could substitute it
into the prayer I had been saying since my first call to
USC. Toni told me that her name was Valentina.
Valentina, I repeated it several times and then I thought
to myself, what a beautiful name.
Toni then spoke, "Jim, if you are a go, the next phone
call we make will be to Valentina telling her that a
donor has been found."
“Call her? You mean she knows nothing about this?”
“No, we never want to build up someone’s hope until it
is certain. She does not even know there is a possibility
for a match.”
After we hung up, I sat quietly for a long time wondering
what Valentina—and her family—were feeling at that moment.
God, please use me. I want to do more. Is it possible, I
thought, that God's plan really did include me as an avenue
to change the course of another's life?
On the morning of the surgery, I drove to the Medical
Center, arriving so early that the guard had to let me
in. As I went through the normal check-in including one
more blood test, one more urine cup, and one more blood-pressure test, I couldn’t help but wonder what Valentina
was experiencing. I struggled to put a picture of her in
my mind, not knowing if she was tall or short, married
or not married, kids or no kids. All I knew was that
her name was Valentina.
The rest of the day was a blur. In the haze of recovery,
I can remember asking how Valentina was doing, always
falling asleep before hearing the nurse’s answer.
Finally, late that evening, I remained awake long enough
to hear the staff’s answer and, this time, I remembered it. "She is doing great. Your kidney kicked in right away."
I remembered putting my head back in the pillow saying,
"Thank you God. Thank you for using me to do more."
Although I requested that I get to meet Valentina,
it would not happen unless she agreed. On Friday
afternoon, two days after the surgery, Toni walked in
and scolded me. “Jim, I understand you have been touring
the hospital stopping at the nursing stations and asking
questions about a possible patient named Valentina. Is
“Yes, I just wanted to know who she was. I wouldn’t have
talked to her or anything. I just wanted to see who she was.”
“Jim, you know you can't do that. Besides that, do
you think for one minute we didn’t think about you
trying to find her? We changed her name at her nursing
“Now, would you like to meet Valentina and her family? She agreed to meet with you.”
Later that afternoon, I was taken to her room.
There she was, Valentina, the recipient of the prayer,
"God use me…" Nervously sitting up in bed, her long,
dark hair draped over her shoulders. With a smile and
tears intermixed, she was surrounded by her three
young daughters, her husband, her father, and an
interpreter since the adults spoke no English.
In spite of the language barrier, for the next twenty
minutes we spoke in our native tongues saying things
our brains could not interpret, but our hearts fully
understood. We spoke the universal language of
love and tears.
As I held Valentina's hand, I looked into the eyes
of her family, knowing God had truly put this plan into
motion years earlier as I stood in prayer at Carl's coffin.
Valentina and her family are now adjusting to a life
of normalcy for the first time in years. Instead of coming
to grips with the reality of an impending death, Valentina
is now back to being a vibrant mother and wife.
Although I continue to talk to the family at least
once every few months, the call just before the first
Christmas after the surgery is the most memorable.
“Jim, this is Maria, Valentina’s daughter. How are you
“I'm fine. How is your mom?”
“She is doing good. I just wanted to call for mom
and see how you are doing and tell you Feliz Navidad
and to thank you for giving us our mother back.”
Her words were humbling and the only response I
could come up with was, “You’re welcome.”
I would be lying if I said this has not had an impact
on me as well. We have all heard words like, “what
you give, you will receive,” but I suspect the reverse
may also be true. I have concluded that God gives each
one of us an abundance of loving gifts and if we do not
share these gifts, we will eventually lose them. For me
one of the gifts has always been above average health
and if I chose not to share the gift, I would eventually
I think of Carl often and know that his illness eventually
led to the donation to Valentina. I suspect that is how life works: we learn from one and apply to another.
On weekends I still go jogging in the early morning hours
often watching the sun make its way over the mountain
peaks. I no longer have the choice of buying a newspaper
or not because the paper machine that was so instrumental
in the life of many has been removed. So when I return to
my small house, I make my way to my favorite chair
grabbing my homemade prayer book reciting a few of my
favorite prayers. The last one continues to remain the
same: God, I want to be used for more. Please use me to do more.