Not long afterwards I sent a long 5 page letter to all of the recipients of my dad’s organs. I received a letter back from the organ donation people telling me that the person who had received his heart had passed away. Unfortunately by the time he received my dad’s heart he was already too sick and just couldn’t come back from it.
I have been wanting to write this post for some time but have finally had a minute to sit by myself and do it. And it just so happens that today is the day of remembrance so what a perfect day.
Today while I remember our veterans, including my great grandfather and several others, who risked or gave their lives for us I will also be remembering my dad. My dad never served but when he died he worked for National Defense here in Ottawa as a civilian. He was so proud of his job and we used to make fun of him because by the way he talked he sounded like he worked alongside and was best buds with the Commander in Chief.
My mom has decided that is ready, today, to do my dad’s ashes. So today we will be heading to our cottage. While everyone else remembers those who are currently keeping us free and those who have in the past, I will be standing in my dad’s favorite place in the world and spreading his ashes in the lake where he swam as a teenager, the place where his little girls learned to swim and where he took his grandchildren for rides in his kayak.
As I am sure you remember, my dad died tragically in February. While we sat in the hospital saying our final goodbyes there were families who were receiving life saving phone calls because, as my dad would have wanted, we donated my dad’s organs.
A couple of weeks ago I received another letter, from the wife of the man who received one of my dad’s kidneys. This letter had a much happier ending however made me cry more than the heart letter did. I want to share the letter with you but instead of rewriting the entire letter for you I will share just some of my favorite parts along with some of my own commentary.
The letter was written September 24, 2013, 7 months and 12 days after my dad passed away.
“My dear friend,
Your letter has touched our hearts. I know how devasted you all must have been at the death of your father. He sounds like he was a wonderful and loving dad. Through his kindness, he has changed the lives of many people by donating his organs. Both my husband and I will reciprocate when our time comes.”
Then she told us a bit about her husband. He is a wonderful dad to their children and he leave an impression wherever he goes through his kindness and his ability to make people laugh. My favorite part in her description is “He is constantly singing even when we are shopping which can be a little embarrassing sometimes.” When you learn to appreciate life like we have it is these little things that you learn to love about people and think is so wonderful. I can picture this man standing in the grocery store and singing.
Then she goes on to tell us about when everything started to go bad for her husband. Two and half years ago he stopped singing when his kidneys started to fail. His health and his moral all started to go downhill. The twinkle in his eyes was gone.
She goes on to tell us about last Christmas when she saw their children crying at the site of their dad so ill.
My dad died on February 12th. We had gotten the call to come back to the hospital in the middle of the night. We arrived in the early hours of the morning and spent the time getting updates from the doctors. They explained that his health was deminishing. He was on life support and even if he some how managed to survive he would never be the same. The doctors asked if we were familiar with organ transplant and if we thought we would be interested. There was no hesitation. The answer was of course yes. My dad would want that.
As we sat there for the many hours that followed, and as we prepared to say our final goodbyes, I remember saying that as we are sitting here saying goodbye that there are families who are receiving phone calls and who are rejoicing because their wish has just come true. This is where in the letter I couldn’t keep it together because I remember that moment so clearly.
“On February 13th (a day I will never forget) we got a call at 1:00am saying there was a kidney for him. Of course we didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the night and cried alot both of us. On February 14th, what a beautiful Valentine gift he got his transplant.”
Funny how I don’t even remember Valentine’s Day happening yet for another family it is a day that has taken on a whole new meaning.
“Thanks to your father, my husband has a new lease on life because in my heart I know he got it just in time. I have found the twinkle back in his eyes and he has started singing again (even in the stores).”
The most incredible thing is that he now has three kidneys. They didn’t remove his, they just placed my dad’s in with his. She said the kidney protrudes a little and she often rubs it and thanks his anonymous donor. Now that I have written to her when she rubs his little bump she thinks about my dad and all of the things I told her about him.
She finishes the letter by telling me that although they don’t drink they are heading to a little pub where they will celebrate my dad’s gift by having a beer and eating wings and pizza in his honour. And she reminds me that although it is sad that we have lost she wants me to remember that my dad lives in every organ he donated.
So today while we have your moment of silence we will be having ours as we throw my dad’s ashes into the wind and lake where he belongs at White Lake.