This weekend is the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death, but it is also an anniversary of new life, because he was an organ donor.
The video below is one I made a few months ago, and yes, it starts off sad. It was a devastating, unexpected loss of life, but my goal was to document God taking us from pain and sorrow, to admiration and praise for how the Lord displayed His faithfulness to so many people…people I didn’t even know yet.
🎶 Hillary Scott’s THY WILL BE DONE.
It may not always be easy to say these words, but that is what Jesus did for us.
“Not my will, but yours.”
May the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The Ups and Downs:
I waited for 8 hours on Saturday, February 25, 2017, for St. Vincent’s to tell me my brother now had no brain activity, so the UAB Organ Transplant Team could come and get him.
When we left St. Vincent’s the evening before, on 2/24/17, we expected the transplant team to arrive shortly after.
A phone call around 6 p.m. from St. Vincent’s indicated minimal brain activity was still present, and therefore he could not be released for organ donation.
The early morning hours of February 23rd through Friday the 24th had already been excruciating enough. I arrived at 3 a.m. Thursday morning to find him in the ER, and then moved to SICU on a ventilator.
He was alive. They said he could hear us. They would bring him out of the drug-induced coma the next day to determine the effects of the stroke.
An aneurysm Thursday evening took his life anyway.
I am writing this NOT to spread pain, but for our story to help other potential transplant families. My sister and I witnessed a family a few months ago in the same situation, and I wanted to just embrace them, and tell them it would be okay…
I know the last thing you want to think about, at the moment of losing someone you love, is delaying a funeral so organ donation can take place. We were there. We experienced those feelings and came really close to not doing it.
A precious woman from UAB, Janet, walked us through…no, she CARRIED us (me, my sister, and Kelly) through the organ donation process – because the family had already said no.
We were in shock, devastated, sleep-deprived and now grasping at acceptance and closure that Jeremy was gone, and the sound of a flatline that would signal the end. To go through organ donation would delay all of that.
The funeral couldn’t be planned. We didn’t know when his body would go to the funeral home or how long it would take to prepare for a service. It could be anywhere from 3-5 days.
We didn’t want to wait. We wanted to mourn our loss and not prolong the agony of what just happened.
He moved in the hospital room that day, as I offered one last prayer asking God to please help us make the right decision, for Jeremy’s death to mean something… to possible save someone else physically and spiritually.
I remember when the “Amen” was spoken, my dad raised his head, returned his Nick Saban/Alabama hat to his head, and painfully said, “We’re doing it.”
There was agony on his face as he left.
This is why I was upset Friday night when we found out Jeremy was still at St. Vincent’s.
It was no one’s fault and I completely understand liability for both hospitals, in that certain tests have to show no sign of brain activity. But, my emotions were raw and I felt guilty that we left “him” there.
I went back Saturday morning and waited. I washed his hands, his face and I cried. All day. But, I needed to see him go.
The sun was setting over Birmingham.
I stepped back and took a picture of the red and orange hues that filled his room with a warm glow. It was peaceful.
Then, I look up to see what appeared to be paramedics and a stretcher coming toward me.
I knew they were here for us by the UAB logo on their jackets, and sweet Janet walking beside them.
When the transplant team walked in, their faces were like so many friends that had been there, and these complete strangers embraced me. They hugged me. They helped me put Jeremy’s hat on his head…not that he needed one, but I couldn’t let him leave without it. He was never without a hat.
I will never, ever forget that moment.
I will never forget entering the world of organ donation.
I will never forget how Courtney and I turned in the names of two of the people who ended up being matched as candidates, the first time we met them, and all the “God moments” that confirm peace over that decision.
Kizzy Bennett and Jennifer Bice Kujan – no matter where life takes us, know this…on 02/23/17, I received a phone that my brother had a stroke.
God put into motion, His divine plan, that we would meet on Facebook the next day, 2/24/17, from those 109 shares of my Facebook post.
God knew what names I would copy and paste to Janet at the Alabama Organ Center.
He knew in what order all the names would be received, and how the matching process would be determined.
He knew you would get that call, even though Jennifer was in another state.
My dad has comforted me greatly with the biblical context of “sometimes God takes the body in order to save the soul.”
We all know Jeremy wasn’t in a good place, and I firmly believe the Lord saw the end result for actions yet to come, and allowed him to be called home, so that three other people might have a chance at new life.
I believe that God knew two of those people would be you. It might be years before the fruition of His plans are known, but we know (our families) that this situation as unique.
UAB said they had never had someone submit so many names for organ recipients. 😂
I do not mourn this weekend, but I rejoice in God’s sovereign plan. I may cry, but I know we are part of something much bigger than just an earthly family.
We are here to build the kingdom.
If my precious brother, who was good to everyone, and who I love with all of my heart…if he couldn’t use his hammer anymore to build that kingdom, then the Lord let him rest, and passed his life on to you.
It is an honor to know both of you, to see in the flesh – something God did, to realize all the strands He had to pull together for us to be having this conversation one year later.
For all organ recipients, and to the families who have not yet faced the type of decision:
Discuss with your family members now about their wishes of organ donation, so in the moment of tragedy, there is no discussion needed.
We would not have this story if my sister, Courtney, had not whispered across the room to me, “Was he an organ donor?”
I found his wallet, and there it was…❤️
Before you leave this page, I heard a sermon today where the pastor used the illustration of a women who leaned in to hear her son’s heart beating…in the chest of someone else.
“If God put His ear to our chest, would He hear His Son’s heart beating there?”
-Dr. Adrian Rogers
Oh my gosh…I could not get home quickly enough to add that to this story. What a powerful image of our Heavenly Father, who sacrificed His Son for us,
🎩 Courtney, even though I’m 17 years older than you – you were the real hero that weekend. Thank you for helping lead the whole family in the direction of this precious experience.
Family video from funeral service, March 1, 2017:
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