Imagine this. Your child is lying in a hospital bed and a doctor tells you that without an organ transplant, your child will die. Your child-who you brought into this world. Who you would lay your own life down for. What would you say? Well, of course, you would say yes. Yes to to the transplant that would save his or her life. It’s a no-brainer. Insert into this story your husband. Your wife. Your mother, father, brother, sister. In all of those instances, you would say yes. But in order for your loved one to get that life-saving organ, someone else has to say yes. Someone else has to say yes on the most horrible day of their lives. Somewhere else, in another hospital, another conversation is going on. But this one is quite different. Those doctors are telling family members that their loved one is dead. That nothing will save him or her. Their child/husband/wife/mother/father/brother/sister is gone. And then they are asked to say yes-to donating their loved one’s organs. They are asked to say yes to giving the gift of life. An immeasurable and incomparable gift. Maybe it’s the family member of the deceased that decides, or maybe it’s the donor himself that made his or her wishes known. Either way, there is a yes. And because of that yes, that child lying in that hospital bed will get a miracle. That child will live to see her high school graduation. That husband will live to see his son play varsity football. That mother will live to see her daughter get married. All because of a little three letter word.
Today, my family and I participated in the New Jersey Sharing Netowrk’s 5k. The NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit organization that is responsible for finding life-saving organs and tissue for the over 5,000 NJ residents awaiting transplant. Think about that-over 5,000 people waiting for a yes-and that’s just in New Jersey. Their event today was nothing short of amazing. It’s not your typical 5K. Many of the participants are either family members of someone who lost their life and donated their organs, or recipients of those organs and their families. It’s touching, beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, and inspirational. After my husband and I completed the run (with strollers in tow), we walked around for a a bit. I spent a good deal of time among the donor families. They formed teams in honor of their loved ones and set up tents with banners, signs and pictures. It was impossible to walk amongst all of that and not feel touched. As I walked by one in particular, I asked if I could take a picture. The man I spoke to said yes, and this it what struck me:
That face. I just couldn’t stop looking at it. There was just something about her. I took the picture, and then went off to find my husband, as we had to be at my daughter’s dance school for her recital pictures. We started to walk out, and then I told him I had to go back-I knew then I really wanted to write about today. And I wanted to go back to talk to the family of that beautiful little girl. The little girl who won’t ever have any more dance recitals. I met her parents, and they were lovely. We talked a little bit about “Tori”, and I got a picture of the family and team-“Team Tori”. Tori’s parents made the decision to give the gift of life. On the worst day of their lives, someone asked them to give. And they said yes. And because of that, another child (or children) gets to live. My heart broke for these people. And yet I found them so amazingly inspiring. They walked today to remember their hero. Their Tori.
They’re not alone. There were so many teams today walking or running in remembrance. And to honor. And to give thanks. And to support.
I was in complete awe of these amazing human beings. In awe of the loved ones they lost and of the families they left behind. Their strength was nothing short of amazing.
The Sharing Network puts together “Donor Remembrance Quilts” to honor the donors. Family members are asked to make a quilt square honoring their loved ones and to decorate it however they would like. The results are so, so beautiful. Each one tells a story.
Ironically, Tori’s quilt was the first one I went to.
I was a part of this organization for a few years before baby #2 unexpectedly came along, and I can tell you that they perform miracles every single day. But they can’t do it without you. They can’t do their job if no one says yes. Right before the race started, a speaker said “If you are willing to receive, you should be willing to give.” Truer words have not been spoken. Be willing to give the gift of life. You never know if you just may need to accept it some day.