“Finding the Good” Part 1

27 Nov

I know you’re all itching to know how my Thanksgiving went, but I’d like to share something else first…

My senior year in high school marked the beginning of my negative feelings toward this holiday. Prior to this year, Thanksgiving was easily my favorite time of year. This particular year, though, a terrible accident happened and it made me look at Thanksgiving with sadness. A well-loved former high school alum was killed in a car accident, forever altering my view of my carefree, little world.

Sara was an exemplary person, one who many of our small town’s youth looked up to. Her death was tragic for everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. You can read more about her here.

Then, my senior year in college, I heard word of another accident. I’ll never forget. It was the day I had to give my thesis proposal to my peers and professors. My nerves were already elevated, but when I got word of the wreck there was only one thought in my mind and it had nothing to do with the success of my paper. Would my cousin live? Is he going to make it?

His friend (and mine) had already died instantly in the crash-

More heartache felt like more than I could bear. More than I wanted my family to bear. Still, he passed away on Thanksgiving Day.

Trey was 25 when he died. Younger than I am now. It still seems so wrong. But some place deep inside me, I know God is in control of us. I trust in Him. That’s all I can do. Trey’s sister (Laura Lefler Herzog) wrote this about him. I hope you’ll read it because her words say far more than I could ever write and she encapsulates the beauty of Thanksgiving:

Last Thanksgiving, my life changed forever.

My younger brother and only sibling, Trey, was in a very serious car accident and after several days in the hospital he died from his injuries. It was Thanksgiving Day.

There is no doubt that Thanksgiving, and life in general, will never be the same for those that loved Trey, but I believe the timing of his death was significant. It forced us to approach even our darkest day with a spirit of gratitude.

Trey and I both worked for Senator Lamar Alexander for years, and you can’t work or even be around Sen. Alexander for very long without hearing him quote his friend Alex Haley who said, “Find the good and praise it.”

For me, part of “the good” came when we learned that Trey would die the same way he lived, by loving and giving. I like to say that Trey, more than anyone else I know, tried to live his life according to our Lord’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As a natural extension of his generous spirit he had chosen to be an organ and tissue donor and because of his loving choice at least five people were given new life: two single mothers in their 40s, a 56-year-old mother of two who had been married for 28 years, a 36-year-old gentleman who enjoyed fishing (one of Trey’s favorite pastimes), and a 62-year-old physician and father of four who had been on the transplant list for two years.

My family has learned a lot about organ donation in the year since Trey’s death. In particular, we’ve experienced firsthand that while marking “yes” to organ donation is critical, it’s just as important to share your wishes with family members. As the Tennessee Donor Services Web site states: “A discussion with family now will mean a life-affirming decision later.”

According to Tennessee Donor Services (TDS), Trey renewed his driver’s license at a kiosk in Nashville on May 14, 2007, and marked “yes” to organ and tissue donation. His girlfriend, Jane, also recalled a conversation with Trey just a few weeks before his death indicating his wish to donate “everything.” She remembers him saying, “I’ll be with the Big Guy. Give it all.” As we sat in the hospital waiting room, I struggled with the decision to donate his eyes. It seemed so invasive. But they were not my eyes to give. They were Trey’s, he didn’t need them in heaven, and he had made it very clear to “give it all.”

Many people find talk of organ donation uncomfortable and maybe even morbid. And many people believe organ donation is a good thing, but just put off doing something about it for another day. According to TDS, a survey conducted by the National Coalition on Donation found that 91 percent of respondents support donation, and yet 29 percent have taken no action to indicate their wishes via their driver’s license, donor card, living will, or by simply telling their family. That was me. I’m embarrassed to say that I signed my driver’s license the day that Trey died. I’m so thankful that my responsible brother was not part of that 29 percent like I was.

Because of his decision to be an organ donor, Trey’s story became a resurrection story. Out of death and despair came new life, and our Thanksgiving became an Easter. Through our tears we rejoiced knowing that five families had gotten a call on Thanksgiving Day with news that their loved one would be receiving a life-giving organ. What an incredible Thanksgiving for them!

True story: On my mother’s birthday last March she was having dinner with my stepfather at a restaurant in their hometown, 250 miles from the site of Trey’s hospitalization, when a gentleman approached her and thanked her for the very special gift her son had given him. It was the 62-year-old physician and the keeper of one of Trey’s kidneys. The gift – the good – had come full circle.

Because of his example, I’m a donor now, too.

Every year, around this time especially, my thoughts are with these three individuals who have shown me so much.

There was plenty of good to be found this year. I’ll be sure to share all that with you next time I write. Thanks for listening.

Love,

Mrs. K

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3 Responses to ““Finding the Good” Part 1”

  1. Meg November 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    what an amazing gift to pass on to others. i am an organ donor too in case it is every needed. i’m sorry for all the tragic accidents surrounding thanksgiving for you but what an amazing story of giving to others through organ donation

    • Mrs. K November 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      It is definitely an important issue that I am more aware of and care more about now. Thanks for stopping by!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Finding the Good” Part 2 « Mrs. K and Captain J - November 29, 2011

    […] If you missed the first part of this story, you can catch up here. […]

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