Car ride conversations with my little boys Ryder and Chase were always fascinating and ranged from ultimate silliness to more sobering topics like death…perhaps prompted by passing a graveyard.
Of course, it would always be my death we spoke about. Years in the future I would get old and die, when they were grown men with their own lives and families. Would I want to take up space in the ground or be cremated so they could each carry me around and sprinkle me in cool places? “Definitely the latter for me,” I would profess. “Me too!” they both agreed. “What about my organs? What if someone could use my heart or my kidneys? What do you guys think? Would you want to give someone a part of you?”
My Chase, who was perhaps a ripe six years old, unequivocally with the practical wisdom of an elderly man plainly answered, “Of course, why would I want to keep them? I won’t need them anymore.”
I occasionally had similar conversations with them over the years, never once suspecting that it would be me making that decision when Chase died at the age of 10, a short 15 months after being diagnosed with a rare glioma. I am eternally grateful today that before brain cancer entered our lives, I already knew what my sweet son would want in the event of his passing. Although unlike live organ donation, his tissue was not directly used to save a life, the truth is that his gift will save many more than just one…
The actual process of Chase’s gift was seamless, which was a vital necessity at such a brutal time when there is no room for much more than taking your next breath. A few papers, a heartfelt promise that our boy would be lovingly cared for, and immense gratitude from the team are all I recall. Then, in the saddest months that followed his death, I was able to actually see Chase’s alien green dyed cells (his favorite color!) with my own eyes! Oh, what a feeling to witness that a part of him still lived here, with all of us. Bittersweet tears flowed.
The depth and permanency of the pain experienced in child loss is something indescribable. I will never get to stand proudly at his graduation or brag to everyone about how he’s living his dream as a professional artist. But I can still be proud! I can still brag away! Because you see, my son’s cell lines live in a laboratory where they are teaching these dedicated doctors and scientists what they need to know to eradicate this evil disease. On the day we see a cure, likely in my lifetime so I am told, I can brag that my son Chase was part of that.
I don’t know if there could be a prouder parent moment than having a child who so selflessly saved the lives of others. If the story of Chase’s gift can inspire another family to do the same, then his legacy will grow stronger and more meaningful than ever.
We miss you every day, Chasey!!