Not long after Kim moved to Colorado, I saw a flyer for the Donor Dash 2007. It stopped me cold.
I thought of Jill and her mother, and the time their gift had given me to spend with my daughter. Had it really been four years since the transplant?
I decided that Kim and I were going to do the Dash, even if it was just two days away. Some of the people shown in the flyer wore shirts with photos of their donors. I knew where I had a picture like that.
I went to my desk in the den and opened the drawer. I took out that little envelope. Slowly, carefully, I pulled out the photo of Jill and looked at it for the first time. She was lovely, with a big, bright smile that reminded me of Julia Roberts. My fingers trembled as I held the photo. Maybe, after all this time, I had found a way to show my gratitude.
The day of the dash was sunny and warm. The course was jammed with more than a thousand people. I couldn’t believe how many lives were touched by organ donation.
By the time Kim and I could see the finish line, sweat was cascading down my face. I’d walked the entire route so far. Not bad for someone who just a few years earlier barely had the energy to stand.
The last hundred yards or so, I noticed a woman in a blue T-shirt staring at Kim and me. She finally came up to us and asked, “How come you have Jill’s picture on your back? Are you a friend of Mel’s?”
“I don’t know who Mel is,” I said, a little startled. “But Jill donated the liver that’s keeping me alive.”
Her eyes got huge. “You’re…you must be…would you like to meet Jill’s mother?” she burst out. “I know where she is.” Before I could answer she dashed off toward the finish line.
Mel…of course, that had to be short for Melody, Jill’s mother. We hurried after the woman in blue. I crossed the finish line and there were dozens of people, all wearing those blue T-shirts in memory of Jill, all applauding.
So many people started reaching out to hug me that I couldn’t find Melody at first. When I did, all I could get out was, “I’m Carole” before we fell into each other’s arms and burst into tears.