A little more than two years have passed since our only child Austin passed on at the young age of thirty-two. Imagine my surprise to receive a letter today from a young woman of seventeen who can now walk because of a priceless gift she just received from him.
The paper is a light shade of baby blue and it’s decorated with white billowy clouds and unique imprints of snowflakes. Her penmanship moves between cursive and printing; the first letter of each word is clearly pressed into the page as if driven by intention and deep thought. The line of the ink is thin but her selection of words leads me to believe she speaks from a deep place in her heart.
From the age of seven, Austin announced he wanted to be an organ donor. His close friend was in dire need of a kidney for a transplant and time was quickly running out. The visits to the hospital for dialysis were becoming all too frequent and more often than not, his little friend was too tired to come out to play. Although it wasn’t an ideal match, time was slipping away and the dad had to step in and donate one of his kidneys. The kidney was donated along with massive amounts of anti-rejection medication.
In September of 2018, when it was evident Austin was not going to survive, donating his organs was an easy decision; the only easy decision of the entire ordeal. The organ donation foundation asked us if we wanted to be contacted by all of the recipients of Austins’ organs. We never realized that one organ donor can benefit one-hundred people. We elected to not request the recipients to contact us. We said that we would welcome anyone who wished to contact us but, it was not something we requested. It was our thought that just in case one of the major organs wasn’t viable, we didn’t want to know. We needed to believe that every organ and part went where it was supposed to and that it was a success. There is no right or wrong way to manage this process, this was just our way of coping. Less than two weeks after he passed, a notice came in the mail to thank Austin for the gift of sight. It gives me comfort to think that part of his body or “car” as I call it, that carried Austin around this earth, is still seeing all the beauty surrounding us.
The letter we received in the mail today, quickly brought me to the computer to conduct some research. How is it that two years after he passed, his tissue can still be helping? Much to my surprise, some tissue will remain viable for transplant for five years after the donor passes.
Her name is Missy and she hasn’t been able to walk for several years because of painful tumors on the bottom of her feet. She writes, “I cannot express enough how thankful I am for this generous gift. This gift allows me to walk with my friends and walk free of pain. I can resume normal life activities like everyone else. I am so grateful for your loved one, this special gift, and you. This act of kindness will always be remembered and cherished.”
Please, be an organ donor. Make certain your loved ones know your wishes. Make certain your driver’s license clearly states your wishes. We are not our bodies and Austin lives on in the wonderful memories we collected. Frequently, I close my eyes and feel him with me. I feel him beside me now as I write this blog. Austin encourages me to live big; love even bigger, and laugh as much as I can.