Nearly a year ago, Tricia and I received an email that would affect us very deeply.
For the first two years of our marriage, I was on staff at a small church in VA. Jess Jackson was our pastor, and he and his wife, Carol, quickly became two of our greatest friends and supporters.
When it was most valuable, in the earliest years of our marriage, we had, in the Jacksons, a nearly perfect (and I say "nearly" because nobody's perfect) couple to watch and learn from and model our own relationship after.
We spent hours with the Jacksons, inside and out of the church. Tricia and Carol would meet together for coffee or lunch, sometimes multiple times a week, forming a bond that has only grown stronger in the few years since we moved away.
Jess invested hours in spending time with me, in ministry and in my everyday life. I have never known a more humble or kind man. Never once did I hear Jess speak poorly of anyone, and he always expected and looked for the best in me and everyone else he knew and loved.
Last June, almost a year to the day that we moved from VA Beach to Nags Head, we received an email telling us that Jess had suddenly and completely unexpectedly passed away. I can remember exactly where we were sitting, exactly what I was thinking, exactly how I felt that day and for a long time after.
Not to mention his church and, I'm sure, thousands of sincere friends and family, Jess left behind Carol, two grown sons, two daughters-in-law and a handful of beautiful, little grand-daughters.
This past year has been a difficult one, for sure, for the people Jess left behind, but Tricia and I have been encouraged to watch the Jackson family remember and honor Jess with faith and grace.
Just this past week, Carol emailed us again with some incredible news. The following is part of her email:
Yesterday our family received a thank you letter from someone (it was directed through the donor bank for anonymity) who received donor tissue from Jess' eyes. My reaction when I got the letter was not really what I had thought; I thought I would be much more sad. It really had a positive impact on me, to know that someone is able to see because of Jess' eyes.
I knew that Jess had wanted to be an organ donor, but to actually do it seemed somewhat strange at the time, but now it seems like a natural thing. Jess was always such a sacrificial giver, to family, church and even at our most tragic moment something good came from it. I am praying that someone else's family will make that decision for lungs for YOU, Tricia--and that they, too, will be comforted by their decision.
Reading this email made me pause and remember Jess just as much as the email from last June, but for completely different reasons. What a gift, to both the recipient of Jess' donation and to those of us who are still grieving. I can't think of anything else, beyond knowing that Jess is in a much better place, that could help bring peace and comfort to those of us who are still searching for the "good" of Jess' death.
Again, as I've written before, thank you to those of you who are donors, and to those of you who have watched a family member or friend give the gift of life through death.
April is Organ Donation Month in the US. The only reason there is a waiting list for transplant patients is because there are far too few who have seriously considered giving the gift of life to another. Please, if you haven't already, consider becoming a donor today.