Tabitha’s Wish was a post I read floating around on Facebook. The story left me reflective and humbled by the ripples that each of our lives creates. Tabitha was a young girl who on her own decided to be an organ donor. No one could have imagined that one-week after signing an organ donor card she would pass away from a rare brain bleed. Her donation went on to save seven lives. This is what her Dad was able to hold onto as he grieved.
This story breaks my heart; I cannot imagine losing a child. I won’t even watch movies like “Taken” or “The Lovely Bones” because it is simply too painful for me to even contemplate. But as I thought of Tabitha’s Wish, I realized how the gift of organ donation had really deeply touched my life.
Steve and I first met decades ago when we were new and fresh in our careers. We had both volunteered to work on our local ADDY Awards show. He’s a bit older than me and I knew him by reputation having been honored with Cinematographer of the Year the previous year. Steve can be a bit intimidating. Think the comedienne Lewis Black or the TV character Lou Grant—remember that line from the Mary Tyler Moore show, “You’ve got spunk…I hate spunk.” Well, that could be Steve.
I became friends with Steve and his wife Jane. When I saw Steve with Jane I quickly realized he is really more like Ferdinand the Bull—big and intimidating, but really all heart. I also knew from the ad community that this was a couple that adored each other. And that Jane had diabetes. From the outside looking in, I did not see the impact of her disease. I just saw this hilarious, fun, welcome-everyone-who–entered-her-home-with-open-arms person.
Over the years that I knew them, I always admired the love they radiated. Jane was Steve’s biggest cheerleader and this bull of a man was always so kind and tender with her. I did not see the devastation this disease brought into their lives.
As some point diabetes destroyed Jane’s kidneys. She got on the transplant list and got the transplant and her life was given back to her and Steve. Her gift of joy, and humor, and selflessness stayed in the world for another 20 years because of a stranger’s donation.
Jane’s health was always in the forefront of her relationship with Steve. They talked of the probability of her going before him. Jane’s wish was for Steve to continue to live his life to the fullest. I read of her death on Facebook with a simple post from a friend, She died in his arms. It was shocking for those of us who knew her; we all felt she would continue to beat the odds. At her funeral I remember the same friend who left the Facebook post saying what would Steve do without Jane.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose your life partner in death, but I do know what it’s like to be single again after decades in married world. It feels like an alternative universe. Steve took to Facebook to fill his alone hours. And I started including him in group invites like the event, Live after Five. I knew it to be a fun, music-filled downtown party that was full of people—couples and singles—that Steve knew. Soon enough he joined the krewe.
Days turned into weeks and into months. Facebook time became face-to-face time. Our friendship started to evolve. We decided it was time to have an official first date, just us. I shared my real concerns up front. I knew I could never compare to what he had and I was not willing to just be a date to “practice” on right after losing his wife. He told me simply that Jane was gone and he would never compare me or anyone to her. He was in a new chapter of his life.
Steve and I fell fast and hard for each other. It was in those first few intense weeks as we became a couple that I first felt Jane’s blessing. Steve was getting his house ready for an estate sale. He was boxing up things to keep and things to sell. He casually handed me a book that he said was something Jane liked and maybe I would too. It was a book of daily affirmations for every day of the year. It had a bookmark in it, which is where I opened it up to. It was marked on the current day. It said that to enjoy each moment and to live it to the fullest, you never knew where you’d be one-year from today. I asked Steve if he had bookmarked it for me and he had not. We both knew it was an angel sending us a message that we were meant to be.
I will forever be grateful for Jane, Steve’s soul mate. How could I not be, she taught him how to love deeply. That ability to love continues in the world today.