Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tribute to Life

Last night I attended the Tribute to Life, a Donor Sabbath Celebration to honor those have given the Gift of Life. I knew it was going to be very emotional and since I'm a crier, I was coming prepared. No mascara for one, and several packs of travel Kleenex.

This event was held at a beautiful church in Jacksonville, FL, the Deermeadows Baptist Church. We heard from a donor family first. The story was of a 17 year old boy who was in an accident during his senior year of High School. He signed up to be an organ donor when he went for his drivers license, the year before. This young man was able to help the lives of 5 other people. His heart went to a 12 year old girl, right here in Jacksonville.

We then heard from someone I know, the Chaplin from the Mayo Clinic. She runs the Liver transplant support group as well as being involved with many of the transplant folks both before and after surgery.

There was a video presentation of pictures of donors. Walter & Liz, who were my tenants and Walter is a lung recipient, saw the picture of their donor in the presentation. To say that was emotional would be an understatement. After that we had a candle lighting ceremony to honor all of the donors who have given life to so many. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house, yet it was so uplifting and beautiful.

After the service we followed the luminaries to the reception Hall where we could mix and mingle with donor families and recipients. There was even a fabulous table of food. Lots of veggies, cheeses, meats and tiny sandwiches. It was all quite tasty.

All around the room were quilts with pictures and names of those who were organ and tissue donors made by the families and friends that loved them.

This is in the middle of each quilt - "The Strom Bryson Memorial donor quilt. Is a tribute to the kindness of others. Each square in this quilt was hand made by the family of an organ, eye and/or tissue donor. The storied depicted on the patches relate to the lives of the donors, from their hobbies and talents, to their passions and characters. Named for a young donor from Tallahassee, this quilt is our showcase of how the lives of all donors live on through the generosity of their giving."

Liz on the left and Walter on the right, were tenants of mine. They stayed for 11 months in one of my condo rentals, while Walter waited for a lung transplant. At this event last night, Liz and Walter met Lori, in the middle of this photo. It was her brother who matched Walters need. It is her brothers lung that saved Walters life. Lori almost didn't come last night. Liz and Walter just happened to be in town for his 6 month evaluation. They almost stayed home. Neither one had met before this evening. It was an incredible meeting. It was an incredible gift to have witnessed this reunion.

I'm standing between Suzette and Charles in this picture. I have to tell you that I was standing in the middle of the room chatting with some folks when this woman came up to me, put her arms around my neck and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. Then she backed up and looked at me with as much love as a grandparent would look at a grandchild. I was totally stumped....I kissed her back but said to her, "I'm sorry, I don't recognize you." She laughed and I knew. I could hear that Georgia accent, one I knew so well. She said, I'm Suzette!

I met Suzette in 2006. She was my very first tenant. She was so ill at the time, so frail looking and tiny. She needed a liver transplant, just like my husband, and she received one while staying here in Jacksonville. They were here just a few months, but she has sent me several cards over the two years telling me how much she still thinks of us. I didn't recognize her because she is so vibrant! I had only seen her quite ill and then she left just three weeks after transplant. However today, Suzette is no longer this frail woman. She looks amazing. I never expected to see them at this event, but what a joy to see her again.

Suzette & Charles were hoping to meet up with their donor family, too but it seems they attended an event that was in a different city. I don't think either one realized that there were two events in Florida this month. I'm sure they will meet their donor family as they keep in touch. I'm just grateful I got to see them.

So this is what I did last night. My husband is on a little R&R trip to Michigan this week, so he was unable to attend, but I said a prayer for the person who donated their organs so that Tom was able to live. What a gift.

Are you on the Organ Donor list? Does your family know of your wishes? If you are, please let them know. Even if you want to donate your organs after death, your family is the one who makes the final decision. Let them know your wishes.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Megryansmom said...

I have DONOR written in big black sharpie on my driver's license. For some reason, they excluded it this last time I went to renew. I had to sign up on the website. My family all knows I wish to be a donor. I won't need the organs when I'm gone and if they can bring some happiness to someone else, than so be it.

Leigh said...

How incredibly inspiring! I cried along with you!!! Awesome!

Dave said...
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Marg said...

At Ian's memorial, his father said Ian contributed to the lives of 75 people (I'm sure skin grafts are counted) and gave the gift of sight to two. I'm sure it must be incredibly painful to give up the body of your 17 year old baby. His parents are proud, and they are heroic.

Grandy said...

I'm on the list! Yay! I was on the list before this post, but thank you for reminding me of the difference that can be made.

"J" said...

OH MY GOSH this post made me want to ballllllllllll!!!!! How sweet!!!!! I love it!!!! I'm not a donor but this is something that makes me want to change my mind!!!!!! WOW!!!! What an amazing gift!!!!