December 22, 1982 – A beautiful healthy baby boy was born – my first child, Brandon – nicknamed “Bo.” As I held him for the first time, I whispered a silent prayer that he would have a full life – a life of the joy of knowing God and loving others. Thankfully, I had no idea that his full life would only be 36 years.
Yesterday, we gathered as a family to “celebrate” what would have been his 37th birthday. We called it a “Bo Binge,” dining on his favorite meal (Chicken Cordon Bleu), watching old family videos, telling stories, laughing through funny memories, and consuming mass quantities of his favorite dessert – homemade chocolate chip cookies with gallons of milk – seriously – he LOVED his milk thanks largely to his Uncle Eric, a dairy farmer.
We celebrated the gift that Brandon was to us. And we celebrated the gift he was to others.
My five year old grandson is all about gifting right now. Actually, RE-gifting. He has rummaged through his entire toy collection, wrapped up countless packages and put them under his tree for mom, dad, sister, grandparents…even the dog. His plethora of packages dressed up in yards of scotch tape and bright paper are a testimony to his generous heart. To him, the act of regifting something of value to him is what makes him happy.
And this year, we are reminded of the ultimate gift of LIFE – RE-gifted.
Because Brandon’s injuries were contained to his brain, the rest of his organs were completely intact and healthy. He was always generous to a fault, so it was no surprise to learn that he had made the decision to be an organ donor many years ago.
Now we were taking a new step in this journey of grief – a positive, hopeful step.
The days following his accident were a grueling waiting game. Ensuring the health of his organs and finding qualified recipients takes time. But we were willing to endure because it was important to us to grant his wishes to regift to those in need. And for us it was a comfort to know that he would go on living through the recipients’ grateful hearts.
A light of hope in a dark place.
The Donor Alliance counselors were incredibly compassionate, caring and transparent. More than once they shared tears with us, reminding us that in his death he was giving the gift of life to at least four people waiting for a heart, kidneys and liver. And his beautiful blue eyes would give sight to the blind. They arrange for an “Honor Walk” to take place when the time came to release him into the care of the surgeons and medical staff who would be removing his precious vital organs to implant new life into waiting recipients.
At 3:00 am on November 14, the family and a few close friends said goodbye to Brandon’s earthly vessel before a team of medical personnel guided his bed and all the attached machinery out of his ICU room towards the OR. We followed close behind in silent procession and as we turned the first corner, the scene was astonishing. The long corridor was lined with dozens of doctors, nurses and others who had come to honor Brandon’s last act of generosity.
This was his “last hurrah,” his curtain call, his final bow, and as always, he loved the spotlight so I had to smile and whisper to him, “Well done, my son.”
It was a tender, raw moment of unspeakable emotion and other-worldly hope.
And I knew we were on holy ground.