Back in August, we unveiled Illinois’ 2010 Donate Life Rose Parade Float Rider, Anne Gulotta. She will be paying tribute to her husband Jay, who was a donor in 2002 in addition to honoring Cameron Chana of Clarendon Hills, Ill. who was a donor earlier this year. Both Cameron and Jay will be represented through floragraphs on the Float.
From now through December, we’ll feature a series of posts from Anne and the Chana family to help provide insight into what it means to honor organ/tissue donors and help promote the issue on a national scale through the Float.
At previous meetings with Anne, she has continually mentioned the theme of “thanks” in regard to the feelings that arise when we think of those that have given the gift of life. In light of Thanksgiving, I asked Anne to provide some further insight on the theme.
Thank you Anne and Happy T-Day and safe travels to all!
What “Thanks” Means to Me
I’m very excited to share my journey with you to the 2010 Rose Bowl Parade. As you may know, Steve Ferkau has passed the baton to me this year, and promised to teach me the crucial parade float crowd wave. I’ve known Steve since 2005 when we met after a photo shoot for the annual Gift of Hope calendar.
Soon after, Steve and I were presenting together, quickly earning our reputation as the Dynamic Duo. I talk about my experience as a donor family and wife, and Steve talks about the lifesaving double lung transplant he received from his donor, Kari. For that he is grateful, and gives thanks every day of his life.
You may have seen a rendition of the float A New Life Rises. A phoenix rises from the ashes bringing hope to others. My son JR is an aspiring singer songwriter. He said to me one day; “Mom, in memory of dad and in honor of the lives he saved I’m writing a song.” The melody came quickly, but the words did not. How would he express the loss of his father, and still honor those who received the gift of life? It was pretty easy for him once he gave it some thought, and soon “Thank You” was written.
In just a few days we will all give thanks to the bountiful meal put in front of us. At our house we are pretty traditional. Turkey, stuffing (two kinds), potatoes (two kinds), and a bunch of other stuff including homemade pumpkin pie. It’s a tradition in our house to go around the table and give thanks for something that has brought meaning to our lives. JR puts it eloquently in the song when he writes and I paraphrase; ” Of all these thoughts holding me, I feel strength in belief of a new life rising out of me, I can see hope in what I need, a purpose driving me.”
After Jay (my husband of 18 years) died I felt very alone, but soon I was involved with Gift of Hope delivering a message of hope, love, and strength. I’m grateful for the strength to tell my story, and the purpose that now drives me to tell my story. Sometimes we need to reach deep into our souls to look past hurt and grief to find the good and be thankful.
Jay saved many lives. His left kidney recipient is Julie. Julie would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the gift of life Jay gave to her. I’ve gotten to know Julie quit well, and I will write more about that later. I give thanks to Jay every day. Julie is an extraordinary human being. She is kind, loving, and strong. Julie, her husband Ed, and all their friends and family give thanks to organ donation, because Jay lives on. Julie is a testimony to that.
Organ donation has a ripple effect. So many lives have been touched by the gift of life that one person gave. Jay’s heart was given to a 55-year-old man, his right kidney to a 16-year-old girl, and he gave someone sight. He donated tissue too and part of his liver was donated. Life carries on, and the relationships I have formed in the past seven years are precious. I am very close to JR and my daughter Elizabeth, and although I lost my best friend and husband, I have a new friend in Julie. I say thank you to them all.
Enjoy this holiday season. Eat the turkey and savor the pumpkin pie, and when you wake up each morning, give thanks for something in your life.