When I married my husband I knew I was getting something so much more than just this one great man to spend the rest of my life with. I knew I was getting a family. A family that I loved as if I had been born into it. A family that I truly felt blessed to be a part of. A family that I couldn't wait to spend the rest of my life and their life with.
Sadly, I have had to part with two of those lives in less than three months. Bill's Mom passed away in December, which I wrote about on Pillsplace. This weekend, we lost Bill's Father as well.
Bob has not been healthy for some time, and as much comfort as I can take in the fact that he is not suffering anymore...I am heartbroken beyond belief. I'm not even sure where to begin.
Over 15 years ago (I don't know the exact time it happened I just know it was prior to my husband and I getting together), my Father In Law had a heart transplant. I remember learning that and thinking WOW. It was like meeting a celebrity. Something that I heard happened or had seen in a movie, but really couldn't imagine it taking place in real life. Yet here he was, this man who was walking around with a heart that used to beat for someone else. Crazy, but it made him special.
On a camping trip I talked to Bob about his transplant. Bob wasn't a super talkative outspoken man, but when you talked it was important. He had great stories and could always put a smile on your face with some spectacular one liners. He received his transplant after getting a virus in his heart. I remember asking him if he knew anything about the donor and he said yes. The donor's family did not stay anonymous and he had their information if he wanted to contact them. I asked if he ever had and he said no.
At first I was taken aback. How could he not? So I bluntly said, "Haven't you felt like you should?" He wasn't upset that I asked him, I may not have been the first to think that. He just calmly looked at me and said, "I thought about writing them a letter a million times. I just couldn't ever do it. How could I convince the family that just lost their daughter (if memory serves me right it was a young woman) that giving the heart to this old man was worth their sacrifice. I had already lived a long full life, I'm afraid they would feel it was a waste."
It made sense. Bob appreciated what he got so much but was too humble to feel he deserved it.
Here is what I hope the donor could know.
This man was a great great man. This man married the woman that he loved his whole life and went on to have six children and spend almost 60 years with her. He got the opportunity to see all of his children get married, all of his grandchildren born and most of them through college. I cannot imagine a person that walks the earth who would not like and admire Bob and feel like a better person for having known him. He would help out anyone that asked him. He never spoke negative about anyone and was caring to his core.
Bob has had many close calls. First with the heart, then in 2009 he underwent surgery to repair a nicked valve and there were moments we thought he might never recover. He did, but had to have dialysis every day from that point on. In 2012 we were told he had a mass in his lung and would not be with us for much longer. Instead of throwing in the towel, Bob put up a fight. You see, he had a wife at home with early Alzheimer's/Dementia and I truly believe he decided there was no way he was going to leave her alone. He fought for her. He fought for the love of his life. Now, not three months after her passing, he is gone.
Most heart transplant patients are told that they are lucky to have a 10 year shelf life on a heart. Ten years is indication of a successful transplant. Bob almost doubled that! While Bob may have felt he was too old for this heart and not worthy, he got the most life he could possibly get out of the strong heart he was given. Even gone, he keeps giving. Bob is a whole body donor to science. Even in his passing he has chosen to give all of himself to possibly help educate or further someone/somehow down the road.
I am so thankful to whoever owned that heart before Bob. Without that heart I would never know him. I would never have gotten a chance to see my son call him Grandpa and give him hugs and kisses. I never would have been given the chance to see an older version of who I believe my husband is.
I love you and miss you Bob more than you can possibly imagine. I lost a part of my own heart with your passing. The part I have left though I will use to its full capacity so I know that you are watching me and I'm making you proud. Thank you for everything you taught me over the years.