Donor Family Voices - Read Responses

Read Responses

From the Spring 2013 issue of For Those Who Give and Grieve.

One of the challenges of grief is that it’s emotionally and physically draining. Regaining energy takes patience, but small steps can lead to big gains. What easy ways did you begin moving and/or exercising and how did it help?

Add your own response.

My son was a donor, 48 years old I also lost my husband 7 months later. and then was in the hospital for a month and rehab for 10 days. I found out after I came out of hospital and talked to Dr. I had been in renieal failure. I have had to make up my mind if I wanted to live. I had to stop living in the past. Had to have therphy to regain strenght.

Posted by: Joann Clark

After I lost my son, I felt pulled in a thousand directions, between work and caring for my father, daughter and my son's fiance. Before I could implode an idea formed in my head to start a garden honoring organ and tissue donors as there was nothing in this area. Last year our garden was officially dedicated to all donors and many stones added! This place always brings me peace to my heart.

Posted by: Sharron L. O'Buckley

After our son was electrocuted we were so busy trying to make arrangements and trying to get his property from his landlord that we were too busy to mourn. It wasn't until about a month later that it hit me and I didn't know if I could work my way through this grief. I found just making myself do everyday chores, maybe not all in the same day, but it was a sense of accomplishment to get one chore done, then two and etc. I still have my moments, I call it (my time) and I have learned not to fight it but just let go and let my mind and body do what it needs to.

Posted by: Kathi Nuest

Knowledge of God,and Joshua and I are His. Joshua is not dead but is alive for eternity for God has chosen him since before his birth to be a Warrior in God's Army of Angels. God's Grace and Mercy and Favor WILL always carry me as i'm left behind to continue on,ONLY for a season. I'm so Blessed to be chosen to give birth and raised Joshua for 20 years! I'm equally Blessed to know without any doupt Joshuas choice to be a donor was the right choice because Joshua honored God by reflecting the Heart of Jesus in life and death. The young man that was with Joshua told me, when Joshua was hit laying in the street, the BIG Smile on my handsome son face Changed his life forever!!! I miss my red headed wonderful, thoughtful, smart, courageous, talented drummer, sweet spirited Mighty young man of God!!! Positive I WILL be united with him again very soon. Along with my parents and others who I love and miss. As for the recipients of all organs, I am looking foward to meeting and correspond with all of them, Praise Jesus. I hope that all who mourn for a loved one can be encouraged by the word of God Almighty. John 3; 15-17 That whosoever believe it in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever beleiveth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condem the world , but through Him they might be saved. Amen We all can have the confidence in Christ Jesus He Loves us all "just ask Him". Only He can and will help me through, giving All Glory to God who loves us. God uses people in our path in life to encourage and plant seeds, and water, so God will harvest for the Kingdom of God in Heaven. He is coming again for the Bride of Christ. Be ready. Be yeilded vessels of Christ. Speak life, Bless your enemy. Walk in LOVE as Christ did. He is our example.

Posted by: Cynthia

Goodness, to begin. Word of knowledge was given to me at church, wanting with all my heart needing Gods wisdom to help me with issues in my life. Instead I received a vision from God through a married couple at that time of surrender Sunday before Joshua 20yrs old was hit by car, killed instantly. Later that night in Joshuas hosp.rm. Revelation!!! Word of knowledge was revealed by God. Knowing that for sure and certain Joshua has been chosen since before his birth to become a warrior in Gods army of Angels. Joshua was not alone at time of the accident, I was told Joshua had a big smile on his very handsome face laying in the street. Gods Grace manifested... Joshua felt NO PAIN! I choose to let God carry me, you see I have no one else but God. Knowledge of the fact Joshuas choice to be a donor. Reflects the very Heart of God.

Posted by: Cynthia

On September 1, 2009, I met the man of my dreams. As we both worked a local fair in our uniforms, I felt a special bond with him the minute I met him. Tony was a Washington State Patrol Trooper and I was a Washington State Patrol Communication Officer. Our lives grew together and our love was pure, real and strong. We both knew we were made for each other. We were looking forward to buying a house in 2012 and finally merging our two houses and sharing the rest of our lives with each other. On February 23, 2012, my life was shattered and life as I knew it would never be again. Tony was performing a routine traffic stop on a night shift and upon contacting the vehicle was shot and killed by a convicted felon. My Tony, my world had just been torn from me and I did not know what to do. Words can't explain the total devastation, sorrow, lonliness and despair that I have gone through and felt since Tony's death. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel, only dark days full of dispair. I felt there was no way out, nothing to look forward to and my life would never be the same without Tony. It is true my life will never be the same without the love of my life, my Tony. I turned to my faith for help and answers. I was so angry that Tony was taken. I wanted to know why?? I will never have that closure because the felon that took my Tony, took the cowards way out and took his own life before police could arrest him. I know God does not give more than you can take and he has a plan for you. I have sturggled since Tony was taken to try and understand why me and why Tony...What is the plan...I won't know but have to put my life in God's hands and know I will be okay. Through my darkest days, my family, friends and co-workers stood by me. How would I ever heal and where would I start? It started with Sightlife. Tony was an eye, organ and tissue donor. It was important to him to give to those in need whenever he could and this meant in his passing as well. This is where my healing began as I learned Tony's cornears were able to give 2 people sight. A man in Asia and a woman in California. I immediately reached out to them and told Tony's story. I wanted them to know the man Tony was and that he was a wonderful, caring, compassionate and loving man. I wanted them to know they are now a part of our family as well and we welcome them with open arms. It made me feel good to share Tony with them and that he gave himself to help others. In December 2012, after working with the wonderful staff in Sightlife in Washington State, I had the privelage and honor to meet one of the reciepients of Tony's cornea. I was so blessed to have this opportunity to know Tony was still living and had given the gift of sight. I was so overcome with emotion jsut to know that Tony was still alive in her eyes. I wanted her to see the beauty in life that Tony saw. I am so proud of Tony and the gift's he continues to give to help save lives and improve the quality of life for complete strangers. That is how Tony was though. He loved people and saw the good in them. I know his gifts have gone to good deserving people including children. For me, this was the start of my healing. To know Tony is still with us just in a different way. He lives on through those who received his donations. As the one year anniversary of his death has come and gone, I learned of more donations through his tissue donations. He helped at least 75 additional people including 2 pediatric patients. This has brought me much joy at a time whre I still had no hope for the future. As I have refelcted back to my time with Tony, I cheerish each and every minute of every day. The deep love we ahred and always will share will always be in my heart and nobody will ever take Tony's place in my heart. Tony lived life to the fullest every day. He treated everyone with respect and dignity no matter what the situation. He loved his family, friends and co-workers. He had an infectious smile and with his Romanian accent, would always make you laugh with a joke or a funny story. I was and am truly blessed to have know such a deep, abilding unconditional love with Tony. He was my true soulmate. I still miss him so very much. I still have tears of sadness and times of lonliness with out him and for what was taken from our family. I wonder what our lives would be like if he was still here. I know it would be wonderful and full of love and happiness. I know he wants me to stay positive and think of the love we will always share and the wonderful time we spent together. Knowing Tony gave his life protecting and serving the community he loved and a county that has given him so much, makes me so proud of him and makes me love him even more. Being able to share my thoughts, feelings are therpy. Being able to share Tony's story, who he was and paying tribute to a true AMERICAN HERO, makes me proud and in a small way will help my broken heart start to heal as I try to find a new normal without my HERO. Thank you to all of our families, friends, co-workers, WSP family, Sightlife and many others as you have shown such love, compassion and caring since we lost Tony. There are no words to express my gratitude expect for thank you and god bless you all. I hope in some smnall way this will help ease the pain and loss of your loved one..Know they are and will always be with us in our hearts, memories and helping others lives.

Posted by: GIna Miller

I started walking it gave me the time to myself and I was able to come to grips with the loss of my daughter. Getting out and moving around is one of the things that do help, we need to keep busy or that death will take every thing you have. We never forget our loved ones but with exercising it can help....

Posted by: Cynthia Mondragon

I started one second at a time, then seconds turned into minutes, which turned into hours, which turned into day, months, and now 19 years. I wanted to commit suicide, but wouldn't make that choice because of my son and husband. I hit a brick wall of grief hundreds of times and had to start back at one second again.But one of the greatest things that helped me through this journey was meeting the 2 children who had received our son's heart and liver. The connections to them and their families brings us such joy all the time . The young man you received our son's heart when he was only month old just graduated from high school and we got to be with the family to enjoy this together. The young lady who got our son's liver will be 21 in August. We treasure these relationships and are so grateful to these families for allowing us access to be a part of their lives .

Posted by: Kim Jacobs

Easy steps? None. Life has changed for us and to try to get back to what was "normal" will be fruitless. It takes great effort, support, and love to be able to move forward. Knowing and understanding the heroic impact your loved one made to complete strangers and the unspeakable pride you have for their gift is a start.
While the grief you are feeling will change with time, grief is not something we go through, rather it is something you learn to live with. As a parent, there would be no more hopeless feeling if I where the one to have passed, than to see those that I love fall and not be able to get up, or worse, not being able to ever stop sliding down that slippery slope of hopelessness that we feel. No way do I want my daughter to feel like that, not after the love she has shown, not only in her gift, but throughout her life.
It is now my responsibility to make her smile in heaven and to make her proud as she did for me during her time on earth. Getting up and showing her how much I love her keeps me going. Understand that what you do from this day forward will be credited or blamed, not to you, your strength, your courage, but rather to your loved one and the love you have for them. Of course, those around you will see that as your strength of character, but you will take pride in knowing that all your efforts are from the strength, courage, selflessness, heroism, and mostly love, that your angel displayed, and continues to display through you. That depth of love is what is pulling you down, but when the time comes, that depth of love is what will make you grow as you find your "new normal".
Find a cause to honor your loved one with. It will become part of your “fabric” because you will be carrying on their wishes. In this way, you and your loved one will be working together making this a better world.
With all that said, know that their will be planty of times when you will feel a depth a loss that only those that have experienced what you have can understand. I’m guessing this is normal because we will never forget.
With a purpose, begin to take care of yourself, exercise, take your medicine, eat right and know that your angel will be smiling down upon you as you live your new normal.

Posted by: Harry Lucas

The small steps I took was that I celebrate my sons birthday each year it comes around. We set balloons free so they go up to the sky and he can see them coming. The Transplant games helps me every time I go with meeting people that have gotten organs and the ones who lost loved ones like me. Exercising helps keep your mind occupied and you lose weight at the same time. The best thing I found to help for me was going to all the games since him past away in 1998. Jacob Wayne Blastow 1982 - 1998 I love and miss you

Posted by: Phyllis Keith

I'm going on my 2nd year after the tragic loss of my beloved son Patrick Daniel. He was accidentally electricuted on August 17th,2011 at the age of 21. The 1st year was a complete blur and numbing. My heart litarally felt as though someone was thrusting a knife into it. My mind could not think in the logical world that everyone else seemed to be in outside my own family. Slowly, with the help of a few great friends, my dearest family who also where grieving and the help of "The Compassionate Friends", I began to not feel alone and began to celebrate the most precious gift of 21 years that I was entitled to be Patrick's father. The more I speak of him and the wonderful person that he was to all the better I feel. He not only touched more lives in 21 years than most of us could do in 100 but in his death he continued to share by donating what he could, his tissue. I couldn't be prouder of the child that I raised and the man that he became.

Posted by: Paul Dembrowski

I hold onto love, even amidst the worst grief one could experience — that of loosing your child. My precious son, Jared Wayne Davis was given to me for 24 years. A piece of Heaven on earth. Now he gone. He died, and yet he lives. He saved six lives through organ donation. The grief has been incredibly painstaking and horribly slow. It's always here but goes through many different phases. I am my child’s legacy. I have spent my time finding ways to honor his memory. There are many ways, both big and small, to make a difference for one or many in memory of my son. I tell his story as often as I can, through foundations, Facebook and to people in my life or complete strangers. I journal everything. It's such sweet relief writing my thoughts, memories, heartbreak, love and letters to my child, or anything else that comes to mind. A large part of my strength comes from remembering my sweet Jared always had a song in his heart, he was soft spoken, gentle, kind and loving. He had a heart big as an ocean and would give total strangers the shirt off his back. My son had an incredible ability to make people laugh and his smile was infectious. Everyone Jared encountered would always tell me what a polite, sweet, kind, well mannered young man we had raised. Although he left our lives way too soon, He gave us all such courage and hope and reminded us of the preciousness of life. Those who were touched by him understood that the quality of existence far exceeds the quantity of time in which one lives. His gentle smile, kind giving heart, willingness to help anyone who needed it and unconditional love brought so much joy to our family. I remember sitting by his bedside at the hospital in ICU, being forced to give him back to God. In the midst of the brokenness, out of the ashes comes a renewed hope. Surrounded by family and friends, my heart in a million pieces I look up at everyone and suddenly the hardest decision of my life became the easiest. There could have been no other choice for my loving, unselfish son, if it were possible Jared would have stood on the sidelines and handed his organs out to anyone that needed them without hesitation. For all the questions of why did this happen, what was his purpose, suddenly became a moment of clarity. God blessed me with this precious gift to raise, nurture and experience the true meaning of unconditional love so Jared could one day fulfill his higher calling and leave this world a true hero. Jared handed over the precious gift of LIFE!!! His legacy lives on. The pain of grief is the price we pay for the love we have shared. It is a privilege given only to those who have known great love. I continue to embrace it everyday. I reflect daily on this gift entrusted to me for 24 years and try to learn from it all my precious son taught me while he was here.

Posted by: Becki Genobles

The emotional roller coaster I was riding became very draining not only physically but mentally. I wanted so bad to have it all make sense why my only child had to die at the age of 16. I had to rely on the prayers of family and loved ones. Then my whole conversation with God had changed as well as my relationship. I realized that I had to take it one day at a time, so each morning I would start out by saying Lord if you would get me through today I won't worry about tomorrow and then I would ask if he could send me a comforting Angel. In some odd way someone would say something to me or I would read something that would give me peace. I think for me the key was taking it one day at a time and finally asking God to use me in order to help others. After all that was the spirit of my son to help those in need. My son passed away in September of 1997. I continue to honor my vow in helping others, and with that in mind everything else falls into place for you go places do things that you thought you would never want to do again in life.

Posted by: Carolyn Leavell

Every morning when I awoke, after the death of my beloved husband, I ran a marathon. Or, I should say, my heart felt like it was doing laps around the bedroom, while my body was still in the bed. I discovered that mornings were the time of the day that I missed my late husband the most. I was experiencing panic attacks. I would spend 20 minutes in bed, doing relaxation techniques of deep breathing, petting my cats, listening to soft music and putting on body lotion that smelled like chocolate. I would massage my arms with it; creating deep pressures to calm myself down enough to get out of bed. For the two months before I went back to work, a very wise man told me to keep a “Brag Book”. He suggested that every small step forward was an accomplishment for that day. So each day, I wrote something that I had done in that book. The first entries had to do with just getting out of bed. One day, I realized that I had been in my pajamas for forty hours straight. It happened when I put clothes over my pajamas to go to my doctor because I thought that I was having a heart attack. I was embarrassed that she would see my pajamas when she did the electrocardiogram. That became my motivation to start getting dressed in clothes again. I was not having a heart attack; only panic attacks. As the days became weeks, I wrote about only being able to take a shower. I spent my energy, as I would spend money on a budget; very carefully. Gradually, I was able to multi-task and wash my hair and shower at the same time. I was able to be patient with myself, because of the entries in that book. Every small step that I took to move forward in my life; all be it on wobbly legs, was an achievement as great as climbing Mount Everest to me. The first place that I went when I did venture outside of my home was to my local Curves for Women exercise place. I felt tremendous emotional support from the owner, Mrs. Diane Stafford, and her staff. I had been a member since 2004. My late husband died in 2007. When I first returned, I was only able to go around the circuit one time; for 15 minutes. I was crying the whole time. Gradually, I was able to go around twice for their 30 minute routine. My tears, in due course, turned to smiles as my friends and the staff at Curves helped me to regain my physical strength. After two months of being at home and one of those months back at Curves, I was able to return to my profession as a special education teacher of young children; which definitely took up a lot of my physical energies. I try to go to Curves at least three times a week.

Posted by: Leah Zenker

After my mother, best friend and hero passed away 12/2012 of colon cancer...I never stopped moving because if I did, I would have died with her. I had to take over the full time roll she had as Matriarch in the family which is a 24/7 job. I'm very grateful for my mother and everything she ever did for our entire family and she is dearly missed by all of us. I also stay busy by helping to care for my father who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 1 month after she passed and taking care of myself. I have a lot of chronic illness and disease and she would have wanted me to take care of myself so I can care for my father and the rest of the family.


When my wife of 44 years passed away on December 22, 2012 of colon cancer and became a cornea and skin transplant donor; one of the hardest things in the world to do was to imagine another day without her. With the help of my family, therapist and men's grief support group; I was able to slowly start moving again by cleaning the house, taking walks, riding my beach cruiser, grocery shopping and yard work. I did a lot of reading of grief and know how much harder it would have been for me if I would have just stopped living along with her. I have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to live for. Even though, one month after her passing, I also was diagnosed with cancer and am getting radiation treatment; I have the will to live for them. She would have wanted that.


I kept very busy because I felt like I was losing my mind. I was crazy with grief. Instead of letting grief take the upper hand I got active - walking, yoga and hiking. These helped immensely, I could sleep at night. Grief wears you out, no doubt about that. I made a conscious effort in the first months to eat better, kept moving and stayed in touch with friends and family (even though I really didn't want to do so). You have to fight grief yet honor it. There is nothing wrong with a pity day here and there, but we have all been given life and we need to honor the life we have been given.

Posted by: Ann Sechrist

John & Liz Palmer Loss : Tia Palmer 4/1/1970 - 4/30/1995
John, even today keeps sharing the story of Tia, who she was her personality, meeting two of her recipients and loosing them, that kind of dissipates the loss, the grief, the missing of his daughter. I volunteer at my Church Food Pantry. I talk with alot of our clients, some need transplants, have lost children, and just need to connect with another human being about their loss or needs. I call it getting out of my self, helping others, and it makes me feel oh so much better. We still think of her and miss her for the rest of our lives.

Posted by: Liz & John Palmer

My son, Rocky, passed away due to a brain injury while riding his motorcycle on May 24th. His gift of life helped 7 people through organ donation, 2 people sight, and we hope countless others benefited from his tissue donation. I would not say there are an easy ways to get your life motivated again after losing a child. I have been told that I did not eat those first 4 days, all I remember is getting things taken care of, making sure my other two children were taken care of and my son's daughter who was only 8 months old at the time of his death. I took the lead to take care of everyone and everything which helped me get through the days and hours. I evidently realized that I could not change this horror but in the words of my son, to keep moving as we can all die today crossing the street. When it is our time to go, it is our time. We do not choose when we are born and his belief was we do not choose when we die. It is what we do with that time while on Earth that counts. I say these words everyday and this lesson he left me helps me to stay active mentally. We are a very active family and as much as I would still today hole up and never move, I cannot do that because of him. I push everyday to exercise, both mentally and physically. My tradegy became my salvation as I decided to become involved in educating people about Organ and Tissue Donation. I knew very little about donation at the time of his death but also realized how many people did not understand it around me. I chose to become a volunteer educating people as a donor mother about Organ & Tissue donation and the extreme need for it. I have met some very powerful and wonderful people along my journey and while listening to their stories, what it has done to help me heal. Everyday is a struggle for me, but it is what I do with that struggle to keep me going. I understand wanting to crawl under that rock, but do not! Find an outlet to help build your strength as I am sure you are stronger than you think. Mine was helping out the underdog and continuing what my son thought was important in his everyday life, to give. Just keep moving....

Posted by: Kelly Duren

Our 2nd of 4 sons Daniel was 18 when he had an accident headed to summer work one morn June 20,'88--He donated his heart, kidneys and corneas. Despite my shock and grief I knew I needed to stay as strong as possible to help Daniel's brothers especially the younger 2 ages 12 and 14. I walked the half mile circle in our neighborhood daily with my walkman--ancient radio it would be now--but I listened to Daniel's favorite tapes and would pray and let the tears flowly freely as need be. I have always been curious about a grief support group and this year one called 'Griefshare' was offered at our church and I participated in 13 weeks of classes--I shared the news of Daniel being an organ donor as I have through the years. I can feel a little melancholy beginning as I anticipate the 25 anniversary of this tremendous loss...I am still pro-active on guarding against overwhelming sadness after all the years. I take a day out on my own now and then and visit retirement and nursing homes and totally enjoy a day browsing at antique malls. I shop at Goodwill and listen the their music and CHOOSE to dwell on happy things. I do think very strongly it is very important to get out of the house when grieving and interact with others. Missing Daniel is part of my life now 25 years--his joy is with me whereever I go and I am thankful to God that I was allowed to be his mom. I have had cornea transplants in both eyes now because of Fuchs Dystrophy and I am surely thankful for my two donors. The circle of life is an amazing journey.

Posted by: Myra M Thomas

My brother Alan passed away April 13, 2013 at the young age of 26. It has been a devestating time since his passing and I found myself sleeping for 2 weeks straight after he died. I decided I needed to make sure, even if I didn't want to, that I focused my energy on some form on exercise or physical activity to keep my mind going. I've started small with a weekly gym day with my friend for 2 hours and go maybe one or 2 times on my own if I'm feeling up to it. I find having someone with me at the gym gives me a social release and the exercise gives me the phsyical activity I need to keep me from feeling lathargic and depressed during the day. It's truly helped me survive this grief.

Posted by: Lisa W.

my son Jason Scott Wilson died from injuries from car accident in Aug.2000...We had always talked about organ donation never thinking it would actually happen,,Jason was a giver and had the most forgiving and tender heart that I have yet to meet another like him,,,he always told me give all he had to someone,he would laugh and say I can't use nothing if I die but it may help someone else,,,His words ring in my ear "" Maw your worry to much,,it's all gonna be alright'' it was very difficult to give his organs but that is what he wanted and I fulfilled his wishes,,When I get sad I think of his giving and loving heart and know it was the right thing to do,,I just remember his words "" its all gonna be alright''I will see him again,,I am proud of him,,

Posted by: sharlotte johnson

Almost three years after my mother became a donor, my body and spirit still had not recovered. I hardly recognized the person I had become and knew that a change was in order. 2 1/2 years later I am 40 lbs lighter, have the energy and strength of a 20 year old and just registered for my first Half Marathon in Philadelphia after two years of many 5k runs. When I am near the end of a long run, I use her memory and support to push me through to the end.

Posted by: Kelly Schmitt

Almost immediately after the death of our daughter, my husband and started taking walks in the evening. It began as an outlet to communicate, more than a form of exercise, but slowly I realized it also began to increase my energy level a little and sometimes helped me sleep. Sometimes, the grief was too overwhelming, and we didn't talk at all, but it still helped to be out of the house and find a little distraction in another world. As the months passed, our walks became longer and I even started to find reminders of hope in nature, with the change of season or the flight of a bird. Today, it's been almost 19 years since our grief journey began, and we still are making time for our walks.

Posted by: Patti Norquist

One of the things my husband & I did was join a support group. The support group was called Getting through the holidays and special dates. It gave us ideas to remember a loved one which really help during the first holiday. We only did it the first year but we do toast our son at every holiday with Mountain Dew his favorite drink. We also did counseling through my husbands work. I would encourage family counseling as it seems our daughter is having a difficult time. We also walk and prayer has helped too.

Posted by: Judy Rolph

Dear Donor Families, What easy ways did I begin moving and exercising and how it helped my healing process was- I embraced all feelings that came up-Including –Angry, Sorrow, Revenge, Guilt (the where did I go wrong), and last but not Least-Fear.
I found comfort in believing in the Heavenly father –who never left me during my time of sorrow and despair-Below are three encouraging thoughts of the Day which comfort me in my most difficult and hurting times…..
* Love never dies this is just the start of a short journey our loved ones are just one step ahead of us!
* I believe that “Time alleviates All Wounds” * Always keep your love one’s Memory Alive!

Posted by: Nina Montalvo