Thinking about Sunday
When I was a little girl the church we attended had recently built a new and bigger sanctuary and chapel and created a “campus” by building a large gymnasium and classroom building. Unlike the modern trend of bulldozing the old church and Sunday school classrooms, the wise souls in leadership at Hilton Terrace Baptist kept those buildings intact, creating a place for Children’s Church on Sunday mornings and a large area for the women’s quilting group to keep frames up year-round. Going to the BIG church was a BIG deal. Usually the only times children were present was for special performances, the less attended evening church, or Vacation Bible School, otherwise we were in our own church just up the hill a small piece. I really lived an insulated life because that church was not only our house of worship, but also served as our version of the YMCA because the leaders were forward thinking, putting in a skating rink in the gym and placing an emphasis on children and families. Of all the days of the week we were there, Wednesday evenings were my favorite. This was the time when it felt like I had the biggest family in the world as we all gathered on that same gym floor to eat together –like clockwork every week.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when this happened, but I remember how grown up I felt when a tiny little box arrived for me. The box contained an assortment of envelopes, mostly white but a few of assorted colors thrown in too. Sometimes I refer to my childhood church as “old church”, and these offering envelopes were an old church experience for me. I was so proud to be a “regular” that had my own way of contributing to the place that I loved. In my youthful way of thinking, it never crossed my mind that I was a “donor”. I doubt I even knew what that word meant as I stuck a few coins here or there in my various envelopes and marched them right on into Children’s Church each week.
Yesterday sitting in a grown-up church over a thousand miles away from that childhood one, I was thinking about the significance of the day on the calendar when my mind did a play on words. For most, the day was a typical day of worship, just two Sundays before Thanksgiving, but for others it is a day to have real conversations about another kind of donor: those who chose to donate their organs and tissues. It is not an easy conversation, and one that my tiny little Georgia peach self would have never imagined she would be thinking about years later. But think I did!
Many know the story of choosing in our darkest hour to ask if Reed could be a donor, honoring a promise made to a nine-year old child was also something my childhood dreams of motherhood never imagined. But we made the decision to give the biggest gift we would ever give – our son. We chose donation because the then twelve-year old Reed would have wanted us to do so. Of all the decisions we made the night of the school bus crash that changed our lives forever, that was one that made the most sense and one which has always brought us peace.
My childhood coin-filled envelopes probably made a small impact on our church and God’s kingdom, but choosing for our child to become a donor was one that would be life-changing for many. Making that decision did not negate or lessen our grief by one second, but through our pain we provided others joy. And if there was anything, other than his incredible faith, our boy would ever want to be known for, his love for giving to others was it.
The next days and weeks were filled with hospital stays and countless hours at doctor’s and therapist’s offices. Three months later, while our family was literally split in two, Super S and I living four hours away at a rehabilitative hospital, and the girls and Daniel back home, we were all together at the hospital for Mother’s Day. Second only to the year we lost our first baby; this was going to go down as the worst Mother’s Day in history. Reeling from the pain of not having our firstborn, but wanting to spend time with the three beautiful blessings we were still parenting, I experienced one of the most agonizing roller coaster rides of my life. Back then, the days were bad, but the nights – oh the nights – were horrible, filled with pain and night-terrors. Hospitals are not spas and I was exhausted. Everyone was having a great time in the hospital and I asked if it would be okay to just take a break, knowing full well I wanted to find a place to release from my eyes what my heart was feeling. Instead of going on a walk, I retreated to the back seat of our mini-van parked in the basement parking garage of the St. Mary’s hospital with plans to cry my little heart out and perhaps take a nap. My focus was singular. Nothing else mattered but a good crying session and rest from what was the most difficult season I had ever faced in my life. As I approached the cold, cemented structure, I noticed the lack of cars in the garage. It was Sunday – Mother’s Day – after all. The rest of the world was out eating, going to church, planting flowers, and enjoying the sunshine. As I approached our vehicle, I realized the only other one in the entire place was parked right next to ours. So much for a retreat! I was beyond caring – as in DID. NOT. GIVE. A. HOOT – if the owner of that full-sized van came back and found me sleeping in mine. Maybe it was the proximity of the two automobiles or maybe it was something much more divine (because I never saw that van again), my eyes were drawn to its bumper sticker.
Donate your organs . . . because heaven doesn’t need them.
The theology may not be sound, but at that moment, I didn’t care. The flood of grief came pouring out. The anguish of not having my son on Mother’s Day felt as if some cosmic force was ripping my own heart out of my body. Yet mixed in with my electrifyingly burning heart was the joy of all the bumper stickers in the world, God chose to place that one in my line of sight. I cried tears of joy for a God-sighting and for the families who were the recipients of our donor.
And yes, I took that nap . . .
resting peacefully knowing the God of my childhood was still faithful to the little girl who grew up to raise a superhero.
To learn more about organ and tissue donation (and becoming a superhero): please visit this website.