Coming From Gratitude

I was awakened this morning by a phone call from Arkansas. I knew by the area code who it must be, so although it was still early here in Los Angeles, I picked up the phone. The voice on the other end was frail and kind as it always is. It was Brenda J.

Months ago, Brenda had contacted me through the grief counselors at One Legacy, the organ procurement agency here in California. Her son lived here and was an organ donor. He died in a car crash and his death saved 8 lives.

Brenda had called me to assist her in paying the final monies to get his ashes released from the County Coroner’s office. I was more than happy to pay the fees, and let her know and called her the ashes were ready to be released. All she wanted was to bring him home.

She doesn’t own a fax or a computer. When I called to tell her everything was paid for, she asked me who would ship them to her. Having never been asked that question before I actually did not know. After some research I learned from the coroner’s office that even though I paid for them, I needed a release signed from his mother. That was six months ago. For six months I have called, repeatedly, and am still waiting for them to send the release form.

Yesterday, I was going over things that I needed to address, and Brenda was at the top of the list. Funny she should call this morning. When I answered the phone, the first thing out of her mouth was “Ava, how are you? I have been praying for you every day. I sit on my porch and I talk to God. I know you’re having a difficult time trying to help everyone and I wanted you to know everything is gonna be okay. I know you get my son home to me soon. You are the kindest, sweetest angel on earth.”

Funny I don’t feel that way. I feel like I never do enough, don’t know enough, and should be so much further along on this journey I started after my own heart transplant. The last couple of days I have been filled with such an anger. Cedars Sinai Medical Center, my very own transplant center, refuses to sponsor our events or support our cause. We have assisted so many families there with post-transplant housing and have enabled so many to get listed. I was feeling so discouraged and tired of philanthropists thanking me for what I am doing but never helping, I wanted to give up, to just throw in the towel. Then came the phone call from Brenda, with her kind words telling me, after losing her son, that everything was gonna be okay.

A donor saved my life and I thank my donor every day.

That call from Brenda on her porch made me remember what I always say—come from gratitude always and pass it forward.

Brenda, I will get your son’s ashes home to you, I promise.

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