In keeping with my theme of love in February, I wanted to share something with you that happened 15 years ago this month. My mom and I appeared on the Montel Williams Show to be united with the family of my mom’s heart donor (Kim). The video clip of our segment on the show is at the bottom of this post. Let me back up for a few moments and share the basic details of this story with you. I’ll share the full details at another time.
In the mid 1990s, my mom began having serious heart troubles. She had surgery to repair a valve in 1995 that was unsuccessful and in February of 1996 she was told her only hope was to have a heart transplant. Nothing will wake up a family like an illness that brings death to your doorstep. After much consideration, my mom and dad moved (temporarily) up to San Francisco to be near Stanford Hospital in case a heart became available. She was supposed to be a “quick transplant” but ended up having some complications that almost caused her to not be a candidate at all. In September of 1996, mom and dad got “the call” and she received her new heart on September 20, 1996.
I thank God constantly for the genuine love that a family of strangers showed to my own. They were losing their daughter and sister but even in their grief they reached out in love to people they had never met. Recognition did not matter to them. This family looked at their own great loss and decided they would share a literal gift of life with someone else. It was a selfless act in spite of how deeply they were hurting at the time. The resulting effect in our world was an ecstatic sadness…a bittersweet sensation embracing life and death, joy and pain. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
Love in its true state prefers others. It is not a feeling, but a decision…a commitment. Love gives us the strength to do things we could not (or would not) do on our own. It can take our weakest moments and turn them into our most triumphant. It causes us to look outside ourselves even when our world is crumbling. It allows us to give even when we feel as if we’ve lost everything. Love does not demand gratitude but if you have been touched by a sincere and selfless love, it is impossible to not feel gratitude that runs deeper than any earthly expression.
Kim’s family demonstrated a selfless love for others in their decision to donate her organs so that others may live. As a result, our family has been blessed with over 16 additional years of my mother’s presence and she is still doing well. Because of their gift, Mom not only got to be present for my wedding, but also the wedding of my sister and eventually the wedding of her granddaughter. She has watched both of her grandchildren grow up. She has seen the birth of her first great-grandchild! She has been here to hold our hands and our hearts. She has been an inspiration and example to everyone who knows her and has changed lives as a result. I know it was my mom who actually received the heart but it’s the rest of us that feel like we got the greatest gift.
Love for others, even total strangers (sometimes especially total strangers), can have effects you would have never imagined. You may not ever be recognized for it but love does not seek to elevate itself. It does not want to be put on a stage. It is enough to be content in knowing you HAVE loved, genuinely and with all you are. To love fully and without condition means to do so without expectation of anything in return. Loving is the one thing we can all do that allows us to change the world by changing our little corner of it! And sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves blessed enough to come full circle and see it face to face.