Loyola Donor Remembrance Ceremony
A few hundred people attend – recipients, candidates waiting for transplant and donor families are invited, but the majority of the attendees are recipients. We have speakers – one from each program; hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys – and a donor family member. They each speak for five or so minutes and tell a little bit of their story – and the purpose is to remember the donors, and donor families who saved our lives. This year the kidney recipient spoke about receiving a kidney from a living donor, his younger brother… One of my favorite procurement nurses, Jenn, moderated and did introductions. It’s a very emotional event for her and she does a wonderful job coordinating the ceremony.
After the speakers finish, recipients and those waiting for organs form a line in the center of the chapel – we receive a candle, usually from one of our procurement nurses or other transplant medical coordinators – we light the candle from a larger candle near the alter and we place our candle in a stand. When we’re through, there are usually over a hundred candles burning brightly… The candles represent so many loved ones lost, with so many people in that chapel alive because of those loved ones and their families.
Over the past 12 years, this was the 11th ceremony I’ve attended. I missed one in April 2000. In 2001, my procurement nurses selected me to be the speaker for the lung program and I felt I had to explain why I had missed the prior year – I told the folks gathered that I dashed off a quick letter to the party responsible for my missing the ceremony and gave them a piece of my mind – and I told them that letter started: “Dear Donor Family…”
That was also one of the first times I spoke to a group of people – I never imagined speaking to a group and I was nervous, as I still always am – but I found that I really, really like telling others about the gift I received… And that was amplified a thousand times when I learned about the person and the family who gave me my gift… Now I tell them about Kari.
Here is a link to a draft of my first talk in 2001... (Adobe .pdf)
There is a candle burning brightly in this picture for Kari. Jenn also saw to it that I was also able to place a candle for Lizzy’s donor. And there is one burning brightly for a young boy named Chance too…
The speakers this year for the heart, lung, liver and kidney programs were all wonderful – then a beautiful young lady named Audra touched all of our hearts. Audra is in her mid-teens and on April 7, 2005, she lost her 11-year-old brother Chance – and Chance became a donor…
Audra and her family have so many stories about Chance, and she told us one of them… She told us about her Dad and Chance going to a basketball game at the United Center – and that her Dad had given Chance $10 to spend for souvenirs or whatever he wanted – but her Dad paid for everything and before they left, so he told Chance to save it… On the way out, a homeless person approached Chance asking for money. Chance reached into his pocket and gave the person his $10. When his Dad asked Chance why he did that – Chance responded, “Because he needed it more than I did, Dad…”
On April 7, 2005, when the time came for their whole family to make the decision about Chance’s organs – they all remembered several stories like that. They all knew exactly what Chance would have wanted.
After she told us about Chance – and showed us his picture – Audra read us a poem she wrote:
Lengthy strawberry hair blown exposing a freckled smile
A friendly space between his two front teeth
The small button in the middle of his face welcomed fresh air
Detached earlobes creating large hidden ears beneath that tangled mane
A green shirt capturing the green of his great eyes
Framed by blonde delicate lashes
Untied shoes send off the right message, constantly in motion
Out of long athletic shorts poke bony filthy legs
Pale skin so opposed to his bright and comical aura
Soft, round cheeks, welcoming and approachable
All so comforting as I think, I love him.
Now an angel, just add the wings, they’re orange
A favorite color of his
Putting those wings to use
Monitoring me, protecting me
He was my brother, my beautiful brother
All so comforting as I think, I love him.
Audra honored her young brother in such a beautiful way – I’m so very proud of her and I know that Chance, up there with his orange wings, is proud of his sister… I’ll bet Chance is comforted knowing he loves her too. Audra told me she would email me a picture of Chance – when she does, I’ll post it here, next to her poem.
I also met another beautiful girl with a new heart… I was wandering towards the line to receive our candles and she was sitting in the pew behind us – her smile lit up her face and she told me, “I read your blog…” I told her about our Melissa and she explained that she has already exchanged emails with Melissa! If anyone is wondering – yes, it feels pretty wonderful to meet someone that way…