**Update at bottom**
It was an average afternoon at the bookstore with my girls and husband today. Evyn browsed the princess sections, I sat and flipped through gossip magazines (oh, the Jon and Kate fodder…). Then the phone rang.
Ginger is one of my best friends (pictured, center). She knew my sister. She was there when I got the phone call at midnight. And when I got the phone call at 4 a.m. confirming her brain dead. She was there when I prayed over my sister's body. She was there when I went limp at the airport, watching my sister's body being carried away from the plane. She knows the pain and grief that I went through…the raw emotions of those first hours, days, weeks…and even now, she knows the grief I still endure living without her.
But what Ginger can appreciate about my sister's death – what she is touched by on a personal level – is my family's choice to honor what would have no doubt been Lora's wish had she had the choice herself: to give her organs to someone who needed them. It was the reason my mom couldn't keep her technically alive long enough for me to kiss her goodbye. If our family was going to give the hope of life to someone else, my mom needed to give the doctors permission to take her off life support…even though to do so would mean she would be absolutely gone by the time I arrived to say goodbye.
Ginger has had diabetes for years. And shortly after giving birth to her son several years ago, her kidneys went downhill fast. To the point that her kidneys are now barely functioning. She went on the donor list for both kidneys and a pancreas several weeks ago.
She was on the other line tonight. Last night a 23 year old woman – still a girl, really – was thrown from a car in a horrible accident. At 4 a.m. she was brain dead. She's a stranger to Ginger. But she's giving her life. Her organs are being recovered as I write this. And now, God willing, Ginger is going to live to watch her son grow up.
I was immediately excited when she told me she would be receiving organs. And almost as instantly, I was struck by a familiar pain. Right now, a family somewhere is grieving the loss of someone who died decades younger than she should have. Right now they are grasping the fact that the person they loved and lived for – a person they may have talked to just hours before she was killed in a wreck – is now gone. And through all the raw shock they were able to think of others. My friend, and several others, will receive a gift of hope tonight.
I was elated for Ginger, but I couldn't help crying on the phone. Not just because I have an overwhelming sense of empathy for the donor family. But because, ironically, this week is 10. It was ten years ago this Friday that my own baby sister was killed in a car wreck. Ten years ago we went through the same shock and loss that this donor family is experiencing. The anniversary has been on my mind for a while, but nothing could have brought it all to the surface like this.
It's bittersweet. Ginger is incredibly grateful and is no doubt going through a rollercoaster of emotions herself. She watched what we went through. She knows that someone has to die in order for her to live. And I know she's overwhelmed by that.
My heart is racing. I can't speak without crying. I can't type without crying. I didn't expect to be overwhelmed myself. It's an
incredible moment for Ginger. She's been waiting and praying. And now
it's here. And I am just so very…sad. Grateful. And sad. It's all so very personal and close to home.
So be in prayer. For Ginger's surgery, to take place in a few short hours. For this girl's family, who has a very long road ahead of them. Pray for their strength. For a peace about their decision. Pray for their willingness to open their hearts when Ginger is finally able to reach out to them to say thank you (something she has always insisted she would do when the time is right).
And, on the off chance that a donor family is reading this: know that whether or not the recipients ever thanked you formally, you made the right decision.
UPDATE: I have been receiving brief updates from Ginger's husband. Besides her kidney function, one major change is that she should no longer have diabetes because of the new pancreas. The "numbers" that indicate her overall health have already drastically improved. Thanks for your thoughts, emails, prayers…concern. I appreciate it so much that you all take the time to care.
GInger Sharpe says
I can’t begin to put into words how wonderfully written that was. Thank you Crytal for posting it. As I sat here reading the details of the days of her death, (sobbing) I vividly remembered every detail you wrote. I still feel that same knot in my stomach. I feel that same pain in my heart now 10 years later. It is weird being on the other side of it now a donor recipient. We only saw heartache, and now for the first time we are also able to see hopefullness. I will never be able to thank her (my donor) enough for what she had done for me and my family. I pray in my heart her family reads the letters my husband and I both sent. Crystal, thanks again for the beautiful words I know this time has been difficult. You are an amazing friend, I could never live without. I love you!
Have you heard “Things Left Unsaid” by Disciple? Good song. 🙂
Lisa thedomesticdiva says
what a beautiful post. I have tears in my eyes. Not only is May 22nd my birthday, but my 15 yo daughter recently received a kidney transplant. And also received a liver transplant as an infant. She is alive today because tow other families found it in their hearts to let their loved ones live on in another.
Your story has touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing it, my friend. May God bless you always.
I sit with teary eyes reading this post. I obviously don’t know Ginger but I do know what she is going through. This August will be my 3 year anniversary for my kidney transplant. The recovery is not fun and it will be slow. I actually thought in the beginning it wasn’t worth it. I know now it was mostly the meds making me crazy! But I am so super excited for her. She is definitely going to have a brand new life. I was only on dialysis for a year but the schedule took hold of our lives and the year wasn’t our own.
And GOD BLESS the families who do donate their loved ones organs. I can’t imagine the pain in making such a decision but it is such a gift. I got my kidney from my sister Alicia and everyday I wake up healthy and happy and I know it is because she made a sacrifice for me.
I will continue to pray for your friend’s recovery and for the healthy life she has ahead of her.
I am sure she has plenty of support but if she wanted to e-mail me with any questions I would gladly answer them.
I hope Ginger is continuing to recover. You are all in my prayers.
I’m sorry about the other person not making it but it’s wonderful that Ginger is able to have this chance. My prayers are with all of you.
how wonderful yet so sad. I am a nurse and work with patients after liver and kidney transplants. I am a donor myself and am so happy your friend has a new chance at life!
thinking of you, Ginger and the family steeped in grief. Am reminded of this quote, “Circles, though small, are yet complete.”
no words…but as i sit here crying, just know that i am praying for you and your loss, for ginger and her blessing and for that girl’s family.
wow. We recently had a close friend who’s nephew at 2 y/o was diagnosed with liver cancer – he recieved a transplant (and is so far doing ok). My friend grieved for both her nephew and their family for their ordeal but also for the family who lost a little one. It was heartbreaking. I most certainly will keep your friend in my prayers (and you too). ~ big ~ deep ~ sigh ~
I don’t have any words for this… Just know that I’ve got you and Ginger in my prayers today… as well as the family of that girl. xoxo
There are no words…just wanted you to know that you, your family, Ginger and the girl’s family are all in my prayers this week!
Erin Beck says
Just a few weeks ago I had my dad and brother sign my license for organ donation, we don’t know when our time is up. Your body is of no use to anyone after you die if you keep it all. I am praying for Ginger, I am so happy and sad for her at the same time, that families horrible pain they are enduring and you of course. May God be with you all.
Oh, this made me cry. This is exactly the reason I’m believe so strongly in organ donation. Look what good a terribly sad event can do, and I like to think that if something were ever to happen to me that my family would make the same choice.
I’ll be praying for all of you today!
Susan Kern says
Crystal, I had no idea Ginger was so sick. I am praying for them all. The picture you posted is beautiful.
Crystal – Ginger, her family, the donor’s family, and you & your family are all in my prayers. Thinking of you today.
I cannot imagine the pain of loosing someone so close. Thank you for reminding me that life is too short.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Ginger. Keep us posted!
Thank you for this reminder.
Organ donation is the most selfless gift. I’m in awe.
Lisa Martin says
wow. how gigantic. what a gigantic thing your sister and you and your family, as well as Gingers’ donor family have done.
I’ve never thought about organ donation in that light. What a beautiful yet bittersweet full circle.
Kimberly F. says
Hi Crystal – just wanted to let you know that I am saying a prayer for Ginger, the girl’s family and for you as well.
Much love and peace – Kimberly