A boy died today. He was 17, a straight-A student, accepted at Stanford and UCLA and Boston College for next fall and trying to decide where to attend. A boy who, by all accounts, made others smile just by being around him. He wasn’t in a gang. He didn’t do drugs. He was a good kid. He was the kind of kid who might have made a difference. Who might have changed the world.
He left the house one day last week, probably yelled, “Bye, Mom,” grabbed his skateboard and took off. And never came home again.
It was just a fluke accident. I don’t even really know what happened. He lost control of the skateboard and hit his head. He was in a coma for the better part of a week with no brain activity. The family gathered, prayed, wept. His classmates did the same – over 300 kids holding candles and praying.
Once the family had had a chance to say goodbye, his parents made the decision that no parents, anywhere, should ever have to make. They signed cards to allow his organs to be donated. The machines were turned off. After a little while, he died.
There are no words that can adequately portray the agony this boy’s mom and dad are feeling. There just aren’t. If you have children, you can imagine it, and if you imagine it, multiply what you are feeling by ten, or a hundred, or a thousand, and maybe that’s what they’re going through.
So why am I writing this? To make everyone sad? To make everyone’s heart hurt like this family’s does? No. Because there’s another side to this story, and even though I don’t know the details, I imagine they might go something like this:
In another house, in another city, a mom and a dad have watched their child struggle his whole life, unable to play with the other children, unable to run, always watching on the sidelines. They have seen him grow into a young man, but a weak one, whose heart is so diseased, whose life is so precarious. And today their phone rang, and their son’s world changed.
Across town there was a woman whose liver was failing fast. She wasn’t old, only in her 30’s, with two young children who still needed her so much, but her time was running out. Every night when she knelt with them to say their prayers, they prayed, “Please bring mommy a new liver.” Every night she went to bed and prayed, “Please let me be here to watch my children grow up.” And today her phone rang, and her world changed.
In yet another household, a man hadn’t been able to see the lovely face of his wife for over 15 years, hadn’t been able to read a book or watch a movie or see the expressions of his grandchildren when they open their Christmas presents. Today his phone rang, and his world changed.
Someone else will soon be able to breathe, with new lungs. Their world will have changed.
Someone else will soon be able to stop going to dialysis every single day, with new kidneys. Their world will have changed.
Someone else, someone who has probably suffered from diabetes their whole life, will soon have a new pancreas. Their world will have changed.
There are no words, now or ever, that can take away the pain of losing a child. The only words all these people in all these houses can say, though they may sound inadequate, will be said with the very deepest sincerity: Thank you.
Greg Friscia, you did change the world.