After an aching loss, a healing gift
One of this blogs readers is John D'Anna of the Arizona Republic, who has a very moving and truthful story of a mother's loss in yesterday's paper. It is well worth a read, but here are some highlights:
Read it all here.
Her name is Monica and Isaiah was her baby boy.
She named him for the prophet who foretold the gift of the Savior's birth.
. . .
When he was 9, Monica began to notice that he would sometimes zone out. She'd ask what was wrong and he'd say, "Mom, I've got a bad taste in my mouth."
She didn't think much of it.
About two weeks later, Isaiah was riding in the back seat of the car with his older brother, Gino. Monica heard him gasping and thrashing, the nylon of his winter coat swishing against the seat and car door.
She couldn't see him in the mirror so she asked Gino what was going on. He nonchalantly replied that Isaiah did that all the time in his sleep. Monica pulled over, and her training as a nurse told her Isaiah was having a seizure.
. . .
But Isaiah never let the seizures define him. He played basketball and baseball. He went swimming, hung out with friends and cared for his baby sister. He got a job because he wanted to contribute, not be a burden.
All the while, Monica did what a mother does. She harped on him about his medications and checked on him every night when he was sleeping. Sometimes she cried. Mostly she prayed.
Isaiah's 18th birthday came and went. The seizures stayed.
. . .
Around Christmastime last year, Isaiah said something else out of the blue. Monica had just picked him up from class at Paradise Valley Community College, and he said, "Mom, I am going to be an organ donor."
Monica's heart sank. Was he giving up the fight against the seizures?
She put on a brave face and told Isaiah that she wanted him to give, but not that way. That his little sister would need him after Monica was gone.
"Just in case, Mom, I am going to give my heart, my lungs, my kidneys and my liver."
"You can't give your heart, Monica replied. "Your heart is what makes you so special."
He said, "OK Mom, I won't give my heart."
"You can't give your lungs because every breath you take is special to me," Monica said.
"Mom, OK, if something happens to me, I will just give my kidneys and my liver."
Monica awoke early on Saturday, July 7. Her first thought was to check on Isaiah. She looked in on him so often that he accused her of stalking him, but this time she decided to let him be.
Then a loud knock startled her. It was Gino pounding on her door.
"Mom! Mom! Mom! It's Isaiah! . . . He's not breathing!"
. . .
The next day, she was in the cafeteria with her husband, Willie, when she was asked to come upstairs. She was met by Isaiah's neurologist, a variety of internists and the hospital chaplain.
They said they were sorry, the tests showed no brain activity.
She thanked each one and said they reminded her of a verse in the Gospel of Matthew. That caring for a stranger was God's will, and those who fulfill it are brothers and sisters in the Lord.
That night, doctors removed 19-year-old Isaiah Rashad Stewart from the respirator.
Monica was asked to consider donating Isaiah's organs, but she couldn't bring herself to say yes right then. She would need to sleep on it.
On Aug. 26, Monica was flipping through the TV channels and saw a news report that hit her like a fist.
It was about a man named Carl Johnston, who had just celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife, Elaine. It was a day neither thought he'd live to see.
Johnston, an Air Force veteran, had suffered from lung disease for years and relied on oxygen 24/7. He'd been living under a virtual death sentence until July 12, when his transplant surgeon called. A pair of donor lungs was available.
Isaiah's lungs. The ones his mother didn't want him to donate because every breath he breathed was special to her.
A few days earlier, Monica had received a letter from Carl Johnston.
He thanked her for Isaiah's gift, but it was hard to find comfort in his joy.
Her grief was too raw, her loss too fresh.
It still is.
She kept the letter, though, and placed it in her memory box.
Perhaps some day she'll meet the man who breathes each special breath with her baby boy's lungs.
But for now, Monica Charles finds comfort in family. And prayer. And faith in the Lord. And in the healing power of Isaiah's gift.
Read it all here.