The loss of a child is perhaps the most difficult to experience. It slashes the hopes and dreams of the future, robs the parents of life fulfilling love and takes with it their identity of being their child’s parent. It is excruciatingly painful and at times brings parents close to death themselves.
I visited with this man and his kind wife, and we discussed their experience. Surprisingly, it was not as I had expected. He and his wife were so grateful for the gift of life they had received from my client’s death four years ago. They too had been searching as had my client’s mother, in hopes of this wonderful day’s occurrence. What I didn’t know, nor had even suspected, was that they too had mourned the loss of my client. Without even knowing him, nor the circumstances of his death, they had mourned his loss.
Of course, if I had analyzed the experience from the recipient’s perspective, I would have realized that there would be grief, maybe. I just thought that there would be such happiness at the new opportunity for returned health and life, that the grief aspect never even crossed my mind. In speaking with the recipient, I realized their experience had not been all roses as I suspected.
Exactly four years ago, they received the news that a heart was available for transplant late in the evening. They sprang into action and drove themselves through the wee hours of the morning across state lines to the hospital where the heart was waiting. This man was ill and very weak from his failing heart and found the internal fortitude to remain calm and drive himself and his wife to the hospital where he would receive a new healthy heart. They arrived, tests began, health was determined, and surgery was accomplished. The transplant was successful, but the recovery was rocky. A man already in extremely poor health was now faced with overcoming massive surgery and accepting a foreign organ into his body.
I am happy to report that today this man’s health is much better than it was four years ago, but he battles daily with remaining healthy. His body naturally wants to reject the foreign heart within his chest. He is so grateful for his life-giving heart, but it did not come without a deep price. For the past four years, he has suffered anguish and grief over the death of the young boy whose life was lost. Although he did not know his donor nor the circumstances of his death, he realized from the moment of notification, that someone had died so that he might live. His grief at times has bordered guilt even though he is innocent in the loss of my young client. When he arrived at the hospital, he was told how lucky he was to be receiving such a young heart. That statement pierced him like a knife. He knew there was a young mother who had lost a 14-year-old boy and who would now suffer unspeakable anguish. The recipient’s wife told me that he had suffered extreme grief and heartache for two and a half years, where he could not control emotional tears of guilt over the death of his donor. It has weighed heavy on him as it has my client’s mother.
I think the weekend was a good experience, a healing experience, for my client and the recipient of her young son’s heart. She was able to see the gift of life her son’s heart gave to a man and his wife, and he was able to see the woman who gave it to him. He expressed his gratitude and sorrow to her for her gift and loss, and she saw living proof that she gave the gift of life twice, through one birth. The first gift, the birth of her wee son, was wonderful and filled with great joy, happiness, and new life. The second gift, given upon the death of her son, although tragic and deeply painful, was also wonderful, and has once again delivered great joy, happiness, and new life.
The loss of a child is perhaps the most difficult to experience. It slashes the hopes and dreams of the future, robs the parents of life fulfilling love and takes with it their identity of being their child’s parent. It is excruciatingly painful and at times brings parents close to death themselves. I have witnessed the despair and anguish my client has suffered over her tragic loss for four years. While his death remains tragic, I hope that seeing the miracle of her gift will help her in some measure, overcome the complicated grief that she suffers. The gift of life is also a gift of love, Sarah has given both, twice.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and professional speaker. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.