Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Organ Donation Month

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.

Thank you.



Alaina @ Three Ladies and a Dad said...

I signed up and then forwarded the response to my family members so they would know how I felt. In response, my older sister signed up as well. :)

I plan on posting something about Organ Donation Month on my blog also.

NCBeachMom said...

I am a donor, so is my husband and I would allow my children to be in the event that somthing ever happened to them.

Ashley said...

I just renewed my license and checked off that I wanted to be an organ donor!!

Briana said...

As my mother always tells me..."Things happen for a Reason". My husband and I were talking about your story last night and I was telling him what an impact it's had on me. He looked right at me and said, "And you don't want to be an organ donor." And to be truthful, I never have wanted to. I just felt weird about not having my body buried "whole". But last night I was able to look right back at him and say, "I was actually going to discuss this with you tonight because I've decided that I want to me a donor. I NEED to be a donor." And I couldn't wait to come on ehre to tell you that it is because of you and your story, the literature you've shared with us here, that has changed my mind completely. I'm 29 years old and for the first time in my life, I WANT to be a donor.

So here it is, April. Organ Donor Month! And it's the month I decided to become a donor. I didn't even know there was a month dedicated to organ donation. It's that's not "everything happens for a reason" I don't know what is.

Thank you for opening my eyes.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Good reminder! Let's spread the word.

Sara said...

If you don't mind I will link this post to my blog with my personal note about organ donation - just let me know it's okay.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Good reminder! Let's spread the word.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Good reminder! Let's spread the word.

Blessings From Above said...

Thank you for the reminder. I have always indicated on my drivers license that I would like to be a donor, but I never realized Ohio also requests that you complete a Donor Registry Enrollment Form - which I just did thanks to you. I will also spread the word to my family and friends.

The Lord is using your family and your ministry in a big, big way.

Jules said...

I was 16 when my older sister passed away, and because my parents had literally 'shut down', they left it to me to make the decision regarding organ donation. I still feel tremendous guilt about my decision not to donate - I just didn't know much about it, and my immature mind refused to wrap itself around the idea. Your blog does such a great service, bringing education, truth and hope regarding organ donation. I wonder if my decision would have been different had I known the huge impact organ donation can have, and thank God for the thousands of people that read your blog that might be able to say 'YES' when the time comes.

I am sorry to everyone that my sister may have been able to help, but didn't because of me. However, I have now made my wishes known to my family, and put it in writing, that I want to be an organ donor. With the anniversary of my sister's death next Sunday, I can't think of a better way to honor her memory.

Thank you for sharing your story. That saying '...if it helps just one it would be worth it...', well, I am one of the many your story has certainly helped. I hug my kids and husband a bit tighter, and am working every day towards trying to fix my relationship with God.

Thank you.


Youth Leaders said...

This post did remind me to make sure my family understands my wishes to be a donor.

Reding about Mr. Jackson and his realationship with you a the beginning of your realtionship, I was wondering...did I miss the rest of the story of you how to ended up together?

Beth said...

My dad suddenly passed away in August and he was an organ donor. We just heard from the organ donation people and they were able to use so many things that I have not even though of, skin off his back for burn patients, his leg bones, his veins for dialysis patients, his eyes. The list goes on. During the most horrible time in my life it gave me and my family some comfort to know that my dad helped someone else and because of him someone else was now able to see etc. It is truly a beautiful gift and while we miss him more then words can say, it is a comfort to know what he did. I as well as my whole family are organ donors.
Thank you for all you are doing to help make people aware!
You are in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless you.

pam said...

Good reminder, I've always signed the back of my license and forgot when I got my latest. I also signed up on our state's registry.

Shelley said...

God works in the most amazing ways! Even a year after this man's death, God is still working through him! Praise him for all he has done and all he will continue to do. I continue to pray that Tricia is blessed with a new pair of lungs because of another person's sacrifical love.

All Christ's love,
Shelley in MI

begins with v said...


I want to be an organ donor, my husband and family know my wishes, but I am hesitant to type in my social security number online. Is it safe to do this through the website you have given? I have had fraud commited against me in the past, so this is why I am so cautious. And I definitely want my name on that list!

Q's NEWS said...

The last time I renewed my drivers license, I checked the organ donation box but it went unnoticed. So just now, by using your link, I sent an e-post card to my parents, husband, and children stating my wish. Thanks for the link and please know that I wouldn't have felt nearly as strong about people knowing my wishes if it weren't for you and Tricia and your blog!

Have a great day!
Susan in WV

Em said...

I have always indicated on my drivers license that I am an organ and tissue donor. I just registered with my state registry online too. My mother-in-law received donated corneas, so I know first hand what a benefit it is to people.

Continuing to pray for Tricia's lungs!!

Ben Wehrspann said...

God has used your family in powerful ways to reach many, many people across the world. Not only to bring awareness of organ donation, or CF, or premature birth ... but for His glory, that no matter what, our thanks and praise goes to Him. You are a blessing to many, and our prayers remain that God would cover you with His loving care and that His will may be fulfilled in your lives. Thank you for opening your hearts, for sharing so much of your lives with us, many who are complete strangers on this earth. To God be the Glory!

Suzanne said...

I was just catching up on your posts. I pray everday that Tricia gets the lungs that she needs so badly. I couldn't help compare your life with mine. Although completely diffrent from one another, I found a simularity. My husband and I are adopting a little girl from Guatemala. The adoption process has been so extremely stressful. We just want our daughter home. People often refer to adoption as saving a life. For me, it's completeing a family. Here you wait for Tricias life to be saved so you may grow old together and here we wait for our daughter's life to be saved (held up by the Guatemalan government) so we may grow old with her. WAITING SUCKS. My thoughts and prayers are with you everyday.

K Mahan said...

Recently, I wasn't sure how to pray about a donor heart becoming available for my 17 year old frined. Another friend whose husband is a recipient of a donor heart explained it this way. "Pray that if the person is going to die, that the organs which could help someone would not be buried but be donated". That really helped and is how I am praying for Tricia.

Holly Bartos said...

Thanks for the reminder! I thought I was signed up on my license, but couldn't find it anywhere. So I signed up in the registry.

Marsmile said...


I am an donor as indicated on my driver's license. Initially, it wasn't marked but then a couple of years later (a few years ago-- can't remember exactly when), I decided I wanted to be able to help others if the possibility occurred.

Am thinking about being a bone marrow donor in the near future... have to sign up for it. Already am a blood donor.

This is definitely a great opportunity to help others! :-)


Jen in Al said...

what a beautiful example some of the ways the Lord uses organ donation! Thankful to already be signed up! jen in al

Alison said...

Truly an inspirational post! I signed up to be a donor today. Praying for Tricia's match to come soon.

~j~ said...

just donated in California, thank you Nate. I posted the link for the site to become an organ donor.
Lets all help to contine making it known!

Christy said...

Sounds like he was a blessing to you, Tricia, all that came in contact with him and found a way to keep being a blessing. That is a great testimony.

Lost in Lake St Peter said...

I've never really thought much about organ donation but after following your story when I go to renew my health card (I live in Ontario, Canada) and I will be sure to say "yes" when they ask. I know my lungs are no good (birth defect long story) but hopefully the rest would be.

Violet said...

i've been signed up as soon as I could. It used to be when you did your licence, and then they changed it so you had to fill out an actual form (i'm in canada). And I also made sure my family and husband knows what I want, I think it is such a wonderful and important gift to give someone.

Emily said...

What a wonderful story. I am a pediatric nurse practitioner at one of the largest organ transplant centers in the country (UCLA--although we just started doing lung transplants). Your story has continued to inspire me. I have become so passionate about organ donation---I am considering volunteering for One Legacy--the organ procurement agency for southern California. So while I don't really understand all that you are going through in your wait, I have had a teeny glimpse into what it means to be waiting for an organ through my patients. I think of you all constantly while I am at work with my patients, which prompts me to pray. I hope the wait is not much longer!

Baylee's Mommy said...

I had to renew my license yesterday and after reading your post and Tricia's story I changed it to Organ Donor! I have been keeping up with the blog for the past couple of months after stumbling upon it. The 3 of you are in my prayers!

Shonda in Nashville, TN

Beth said...

it is on my drivers license as well as my huband's and we both know each other's wishes to do so for each other!