That letter from my donor’s mother haunted me. I knew I should write back, and every few months, I’d try, but I couldn’t find the words any more than I could bring myself to open up the little envelope she’d enclosed and look at Jill’s picture.
The first time, I’d started simply: “Thank you so much for your letter and your memories of your daughter, Jill. I know she meant the world to you, as I have a 27-year-old daughter.”
That’s where I’d stopped. What if it had been my daughter, Kim, who’d died? I would have been grief-stricken, unable to function. Yet this mother, at the moment of her greatest devastation, had found the strength to give a perfect stranger an incredible gift. I felt so unworthy!
The second time, I tried to tell her how the transplant came right when I’d given up hope.
“At my weekly visit the doctor told me he wouldn’t be seeing me again. After five years of waiting for a liver and twice having transplants fall through, there was nothing he could do. I went home to die. That’s when I got the call about Jill’s liver.”
Then I was unable to go on. It didn’t seem right that I was getting a second chance at age 58 when her daughter’s life had been snuffed out at 24.
The third time, I wanted to tell her what a blessing the transplant was, how grateful I was to be able to experience life—an active, energetic life—for the first time in years. But what could I say that could possibly make up for what she had lost?
Now I was about to leave for a visit with Kim in D.C. I found myself sitting down at my desk in the den, opening the drawer where I kept the letter from Jill’s mother. There, next to it, was the envelope with the photo I’d never been able to look at. It had been over a year since the transplant. How could I write back now? What must she think of me?
God, forgive me, I thought as I closed the drawer, feeling ashamed of myself. You know how grateful I am. Help me find a way to honor Jill and her mother someday.