Saturday, Jeff, Will and I went to the 2014 Service of Remembrance with LifeLink. This is a service where all the families of recent organ donors gather together to honor their loved ones. So very touching moving experience that I would like to share with you.
When I got the invitation weeks ago, I just kept turning it over and over in my hands. Once again, something else to remind me my son is not here anymore. I told Jeff and the kids about it and we quickly realized it was on the same day as our Deer Festival. Now here in our small town, the annual Deer Festival is the event of the year. This year was to be Savannah’s last year marching in the parade as a member of the Marching Hurricanes. Luke was going to be in the parade in a fire truck since he is a volunteer fireman. This now tore me in two pieces. Do I go to the parade or to the service? Either way, I was going to miss one. My daughter told us to go to the service. There would be plenty of family and friends at the parade for her and Luke but no one at the service for her brother if we didn’t go. So it was decided. Me, Jeff and Will (Richie’s best friend) would go.
Now to prepare for this day. we had to make sort of a “yearbook” page as I called it for the day if we wanted to. Of course I did. My son was not going to be left out! We had to include a picture and around 400 words, a piece about our son. Have you ever tried to fit 20 years of greatness in 400 words or less? Will came over a few days before the deadline and helped me with it. He put the picture on it and then told me to type it out. He left me alone at the desk and I wrote,”Richie was”. That is as far as I got. The word was stabbed me and I had a meltdown. Poor Will didn’t know what to do. Jeff couldn’t have walked in the door at a better time. Between the 3 of us, we got it done the best we could.
The Remembrance Book
The page we made
We also were told that we could bring something to put on the remembrance table for others to see. We decided to make a shadow box of pictures and things that represented him. It included our favorite pictures of him. The one where he chugged the orange soda. The one with his dog Sam. A graduation photo. a photo in his favorite shirt and of course one of his famous selfies! We out a Yu-Gi-Oh card, a pokemon figure, one of his guitar picks, a Legend of Zelda shield and of course his Ingles name tag. Once again, Jeff and Will amazed me and made an amazing tribute to Richie.
Our Shadow box of Richie
The day arrived and let me tell you, I thought there were bricks in my feet trying to move from the bed to the shower. We all got ready and not much was said. Believe it or not, we actually were ready an hour before we needed to be. We left, stopped for lunch, stocked up on tissues and then headed to Atlanta.
We walk in the Carter Center Chapel and this place is beautiful! The 3 of us sign in and then just look around and take it in. Tables setup here and there with different things. Not really knowing which direction to go in first. I of course made my usual move of “Potty Break”. Time for one of the 20 second meltdowns. I bet I took more trips to the bathroom there than I have all week at home! We set up out shadow box and went on to the Rose Bowl Float table. At the Rose Bowl this year, there will be a Donate Life Float. Each person in attendance got to write out a message and it will be attached to a flower and put on the float. I thought this was amazing! A Donate Life Float in a parade on New Year’s Day with a message from his Mom on it on the one year anniversary that my son gave hope to others! AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
The message we will have on the Rose Bowl Float
Then another “Potty Break” and onto the Chapel for it to start. Oh wait, another potty break as I sit there and watch the room start filling with people. It was astounding at the number of people that gathered there to honor loved ones. People of every race, age and background you could imagine. It started with a prayer, then a donor family representative spoke and then a donor recipient spoke. Then came the part where they read just the first names of all the ones over the year that had donated Life. I listened as each of these names were read of, waiting. Then it was read, “Richie”. I felt my body go hollow and tears start to flow. The simple reading of a name. “Richie”
Next was the part of the service where a representative from each family has the opportunity to speak if they chose to. You get one minute to speak. One minute to once again tell about loved one. Jeff and Will couldn’t do it. So I had to do it. Well, I didn’t have to. I chose too. I was not about to walk out of that room and not tell everyone who my son was and how great he was. I sat for a bit and listened to the people already up speaking. Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, Sons, Husbands and Wives. Young and old. Men crying for love lost. Mothers weeping for children gone. Daughters and sons telling proudly of the parent that had gone on. I made my way to the microphone. I spoke. I have no clue whatsoever as to what I said. I had a little list of things to say and I never even looked at it. I sat back down and continued listening to these people share. The stories were each different with the same ending. Accidents, sickness, murders, and just unexpected sudden deaths all ending with others living because they died. I realized, I am not alone in this journey. A few of the stories touched me so deeply that I knew I had to reach out and speak to them afterwards. One Lady I even hugged before I went back to my seat after speaking. We are all from different places with different stories yet we are all connected by the heroes in our lives. I couldn’t stop the tears.
Was not easy standing there telling of my son who is no longer here
Did I mention that people were texting me pictures of the parade the whole time? Thanks to some great family and friends, I got to see each of my children in the parade!
Luke in the passenger seat during the parade.
Savannah marching in her last year as a Marching Hurricane.
After we shared of our loved ones, there was a video tribute. The songs were moving and it was a fitting tribute. I cried through each picture because I knew now the story of each one. When Richie’s picture came on the screen with the words, “An inspiration to everyone” at the bottom, it hit home. My son is gone. Others live, but he is gone.
The service ended and I immediately went to the some of the Moms and just hugged them. We knew each other’s pain. I think that was the best part of the service for me. Being with Mom’s who knew my pain and just knew that hugs and tears are all we can give.
LifeLink did an amazing job of honoring our loved ones. They have become more than just the ones with the “organ Donation” to us. they have become our family. Each person there all spoke of how they felt as if they were family. There was a lot of people there. And LifeLink reaches out to each person. They know we are hurting and stay by our side. They know our story, our pain and want to help with our future. I know if I were to cll them right now, for whatever reason, they would be there. I hate that I met these people under the terrible circumstances I did but I do know that I have made lifetime friends and family with them. I thank you LifeLink for not forgetting my son. For making sure that we are not forgotten. And for all the work you do to save the lives of others.
an ornament that they gave us at the service.
Card with the ornament