Emotional service honors organ donors, recipients

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 23, 2001

Emotions filled the air at Whitworth campus Friday as organ andtissue donor families and recipient families gathered for aceremony to honor the special gifts of life they haveexperienced.

A “Tree of Life” was planted near Mary Jane Lampton Auditoriumin honor of both donors and recipients.

“I hope that everyone who passes by this tree in years to comewill be reminded of the great need for donors and what an impactorgan and tissue donation can make in people’s lives,” said MissMississippi 2000 Christy May, who has participated in several othersuch ceremonies during the past year.

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The tree, a Live Oak representing strength, was decorated withribbons tied on its branches by people whose lives have beentouched by organ donation.

Some of the family members tearfully shared their stories withthe crowd of about 50 gathered for the ceremony.

“When we lost our son, it was the biggest heartache that I’veever been through. . . but I’m so glad that we donated his organs,because I wanted something good to come out of his death,” saidLouise Davis, whose son, Jamie, died in 1999 when he was 27 yearsold.

Make a life-saving difference for others has given many donorfamilies some comfort in their time of sorrow.

“We miss her, but there are families who are happy today becausewe donated,” said Jan Reeves of her deceased sister, EllenKelly.

Prior to the ribbon ceremony, several speakers also focused onhow important organ and tissue donation can be for the more than75,000 Americans waiting for transplants.

“Each day, on an average, 15 people die waiting for an organtransplant. Donors can save and enhance the lives of 50 peoplethrough organ and tissue donation,” said Jennifer Jackson, aspokesperson for King’s Daughters Medical Center.

Brookhaven resident Amy Valentine spoke on behalf of organ donorfamilies after tearfully being introduced to the crowd by JamesLaird, a local resident and volunteer services coordinator forMississippi Organ Recovery Agency.

She also wiped tears away as she talked about how hersix-year-old son, Will, has been remembered in the 13 years sincehis death.

“I have found that no one wants their loved one to beforgotten,” she said. “Everyday someone will draw a breath andremember. Someone will pause each day and remember.”

Jimmy Smith is one of those who remembers the donor who gave himnew life with a liver transplant seven years ago.

His wife, Glenda, spoke about the remarkable gift he was givenby people who did not even know him.

“On May 9, 1994, a 17-year-old young man lost his life in amotorcycle accident. We were complete strangers to his family, buttheir decision to help out a family they did not know saved myhusband’s life,” she said.

While shedding a few tears, the crowd was entertained by thecalming music of Alexander Junior High’s Sounds of Successchoir.

The event, sponsored by Mississippi School of the Arts,Trustmark Bank and Bank of Brookhaven, was concluded with areception where families mingled and talked even more about howtheir lives had changed because of organ and tissue donation.