Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Stepping on my soapbox

This is my 100th post, and it's appropriate, I think, because this post is important. This post isn't about travel. This is about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and a cause for which I get up on my soapbox many times.

And I dedicate this post to my late friend, Sherry, who died on this date at the age of 14.

When I was 14, my best friend was Sherry Payne. She desperately needed a heart and lung transplant, and was on the waiting list for a very long time. When I first met her, she was still relatively healthy and could live an almost normal life. Starting in 8th grade, she got increasingly ill. She could still go to school, but was not allowed to climb up or down stairs. So everyday, her father would carry her up the stairs at school to where the classes were. My friends and I would bring her a tray of food at lunch and we had special permission to sit upstairs with her in one of the classrooms and eat our lunches.

The summer before high school, she got worse.

She died before she ever got those healthy organs that she needed. She was fourteen.


No high school. No driver's license. No prom. Her last days were spent confined to her house, as she was too sick to go anywhere and do normal teenage things.

I remember the day I found out about her death - October 10, 1989. My friend Tracey came up to me while I was at my locker getting my books. When she told me the news, I didn't believe her. I told her that she was a rotten liar. And then she began to cry. I just remember that small group of us, those who were close to her, huddling around each other all day at school and crying.

Her funeral was one of the worst days of my life. How do you confront mortality when you're 14? How is it even possible to think about death when you haven't yet lived?

The first thing I did after I got my driver's license a couple of years later was sign up to be an organ donor.

If you aren't already an organ donor, please consider becoming one. Giving the gift of life is the most precious and selfless act you can do.

For more information, visit: http://www.organdonor.gov/
(Look at the number on the waiting list. It's very sobering to think about.)

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