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Inspiring, Happy Memories to Celebrate the Gift of Life at the St. Louis Candlelight Memorial Ceremony

Posted September 30, 2016 in Donor Family News
Candlelight Memorial Ceremony, raised candlesMore than 300 people attended Mid-America Transplant's annual Candlelight Memorial Ceremony to honor 83 donors. The service concluded with a candle raising ceremony.

Albert House would send inspirational text messages to family and friends every day. A simple note of encouragement, a note of finding the light in darkness, a note of perseverance. It meant so much to his daughter, his sisters, and all who received these notes of inspired words from an inspiring soul.

“And he would send them individually at the time you said was convenient for you,” said his daughter Vernetta Davis, who is a heart transplant recipient. “So mine came at 4:45, because he knew I was getting up to go to work.

“I got mine at 6:30 because I was getting up,” said Linda Daniels, one of Albert’s sisters.

“And I got mine at 5 o’clock,” said Christina House, another sister.

“There were 20 or 30 people on his list,” Vernetta said. “So all day long, he was sending out text messages. I still have the last one he sent.”

Candlelight Memorial Ceremony, decorated candlesFamilies decorated candles in memory of their loved one. These were displayed during the ceremony.

Vernetta, Christina and Linda were joined by a pew full of family to remember Albert at Mid-America Transplant’s Candlelight Memorial Ceremony on Thursday night at Salem United Methodist Church. Albert was one of 83 donors honored during a 75-minute service remembering and celebrating the lives of those who gave the Gift of Life through organ and tissue donation in the past 12 months.

Albert’s family reminisced about the time he purchased a new phone. “He didn’t know how to work it,” Linda said. “And we couldn’t get a hold of him. So I drove over to his house, and he was just sitting outside. I said, ‘First of all, are you OK?’”

Albert responded, “Yes.”

“OK, now I’m going to hurt you.”

“What?”

“We haven’t had our inspirationals for three or four days.”

“I don’t know how to work this phone.”

Smiles. Laughter. Happy memories. Memories that celebrate a life that gave so much to so many.

 

St. Louis Candlelight Memorial, signFor others, the happy memories were shared through tears. Dianna Blount was there to honor her 22-year-old daughter Kayla. Dianna didn’t know Kayla had joined the registry until a tragic car accident took her life. Years before, when Dianna told Kayla she wanted to be a donor, Kayla gave her a hard time. Dianna didn’t expect her daughter had also made that same courageous decision. “I was so proud of her,” Dianna said.

Kayla helped another young woman walk with her cartilage donation. She helped many others with her corneas and tissues. After Kayla’s accident, Dianna purchased a Build-A-Bear for Kayla’s one-year-old son. She had a recording of Kayla’s voice inserted into the bear so he can always hear her voice. And she keeps mementoes and notes of Kayla’s legacy for him to read when he’s older.

For Jo Ann Williams’ family, they were remembering her Elvis Presley memorabilia – “She had one gaudy room of Elvis, but she loved it” said her sister, Pat Mees – and her eyes. “She donated her eyes to help someone else see,” said Bob Mees, Jo Ann’s brother-in-law.

Pat said, “We all commented on how beautiful her eyes were. For this to be something her daughter decided to do, it’s pretty awesome.”

Two recipients spoke and expressed their gratitude to the donor families attending the memorial ceremony. Cornea recipient Dave Rueschoff spoke about writing his donor’s wife, Kelly, and how important the gift of sight is to him. “Vision is such an important part of our everyday life,” Dave said. “I count my lucky stars and thank God each and every single day for the blessing of sight that I have received. For Kelly and her family, and for all the donor families today, I thank you. Not only for the gift that was given to me, but the gift you have given to others.”

Lori Sauerwein is a lung recipient who spoke about her donor Kyle, who was 19 years old (the same age as her son) when he was in a devastating car accident. “Just like Kyle’s family, each of you is a hero,” Lori told the audience. “A miracle worker. Not only for saving people like me, but for honoring your loved ones in the most glorious way possible. I know I speak for all recipients when I say thank you. Thank you for discovering light in the darkness. Thank you for finding courage amidst your pain. And thank you for giving us life.”   

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