On a rainy Valentine’s Day night when I was 15, I was at home. I wouldn’t marry the love of my life for ten years and we wouldn’t even meet until I got to college. My younger sister, always the more social one of the two of us, was out at a dance with her boyfriend. It was cold, but not cold enough for snow, and not cold enough for me to think there might be a chance I would get out of school the next day.
Then, we got some horrible news. Robyn and Michael, two of my friends for as long as I could remember, had been in a car accident. Robyn had picked her younger brother Michael up from practice and they were heading home when their car had hit black ice, spun, and been hit by oncoming traffic.
Robyn died at the scene. Michael clung to life, and had been rushed to Baptist Hospital.
I remember going to the hospital. I remember my wool clogs squeaking because they had gotten wet. They made a loud sound on the linoleum floors that I concentrated on while making bargains with the universe: “please let him live, even if he is paralyzed, please let him live, no matter what.”
I remember mutual friends were there. The Hospital had brought these families together, today because Michael was there, but usually because they were doctors and families of doctors. I knew Robyn and Michael because their parents were doctors, just like my dad. And when my mom had found out there was a new family in the neighborhood, she’d marched right over and offered to help them get situated.
It had led to a friendship. We sat in their basement and played Nintendo, taking turns on the controllers. We set up huge courses for Michael’s enormous collection of Matchbox cars, and raced them. In the summer, they had a Slip ‘n’ Slide on their lawn and we slid down it, and we played superheroes together in their backyard.
Life had gotten in the way, recently. We had both moved out of the neighborhood. But I promised myself and the universe that I wouldn’t let it get away if Michael lived.
It was a promise I didn’t get to keep.
Michael died that night. Well, not exactly. You see, Michael, then 13, had done a project within the past year on organ donation. He and his family had discussed it over the dinner table, like you discuss countless other projects and school happenings, and everything else. Michael wanted his organs donated, and his parents listened. They remembered.
So Michael didn’t live, but he did save a life. Multiple lives, I’m sure, saved or improved because his wasn’t. Because he made a powerful choice at age 13. A choice that we can all make.
I am so glad that we are featuring Anna Parish this month, to let people know about the importance of organ donation. Sometimes, we have to lose people that we love. But it is wonderful to know that parts of them are carried on in kind, thoughtful, and caring people like Anna.
Make Michael’s choice today. Heed Anna’s call to action. Become an organ donor.