Life is Great! But Sadly, Not For Everybody…

Couple carries baby without brain to term, in order to donate organs

In December, my wife Keri and I went in for the standard 19-week anatomy scan of our second child. As a parent, you think that appointment is all about finding out boy or girl, but it’s about a whole lot more. In our case, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare birth defect called anencephaly. Some three in 10,000 pregnancies rare. Congratulations to us. The phrase our doctor used in explaining it was “incompatible with life,” which looks as terrible in words as it sounds. The child fails to develop the frontal lobe of the brain, or the top of their skull. The chance of survival is literal zero percent. If you’re Googling it now — first of all, don’t click images — and see a story about a baby that has lived a lengthy time with anencephaly, either the baby doesn’t actually have anencephaly, or it’s being kept alive with every life support function possible. So we sat in a doctor’s office, five months before our daughter was set to be born, knowing she would die.

The options weren’t great. There was a) inducing early, which in effect was terminating the pregnancy or b) continuing the pregnancy to full-term. Maybe you heard our story already, but within a minute or so of finding out, Keri asked if we could donate the baby’s organs if we went to full-term. It was on her heart and mind, but we left the doctor and still spent the next 48 hours deciding what we were going to do. It was excruciating. We considered terminating. We had to. Were we capable of taking on the weight of the 20 weeks ahead? In our minds, we were intentionally taking on the loss of a child, rather than the loss of a pregnancy. And yes, there is a difference.

We decided to continue, and chose the name Eva for our girl, which means “giver of life.” The mission was simple: Get Eva to full-term, welcome her into this world to die, and let her give the gift of life to some other hurting family.

Kamikaze pilots (age 17–19) pose with a puppy a day before their suicide missions

Photo shows Corporal Yukio Araki (age 17 years old) holding a puppy with four other young men (age 18 and 19 years old) of the 72nd Shinbu Corps. An Asahi Shimbun cameraman took this photo on the day before the departure of the 72nd Shinbu Corps from Bansei Air Base for their kamikaze mission in Okinawa.

Yukio Araki became the youngest kamikaze pilot during the Second World War when, at the age of seventeen, he took off from the Bansei Airfield, Kagoshima in a Tachikawa Ki-54 twin-engine training aircraft on 27 May 1945. It has been speculated that his plane was one of two that struck the destroyer USS Braine (DD-630), killing 66 of its crew; however, the ship did not sink. Araki had been home in April 1945, and left letters for his family, to be opened upon the news of his death. The letter to his parents noted: “Please find pleasure in your desire for my loyalty to the Emperor and devotion to parents. I have no regrets. I just go forward on my path”.

Ceremonies were carried out before kamikaze pilots departed on their final mission. The Kamikaze shared ceremonial cups of sake or water known as “mizu no sakazuki”. Many Army officer Kamikaze took their swords with them, while the Navy pilots (as a general rule) did not carry swords in their planes. The kamikaze, like all Japanese aviators flying over unfriendly territory, were issued (or purchased, if they were officers) a Nambu pistol with which to end their lives if they risked being captured. Like all Army and Navy servicemen, the Kamikaze would wear their senninbari, a “belt of a thousand stitches” given to them by their mothers. They also composed and read a death poem, a tradition stemming from the samurai, who did it before committing seppuku. Pilots carried prayers from their families and were given military decorations. The Kamikaze were escorted by other pilots whose function was to protect the Kamikaze to their destination and report on the results.

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