A Lasting Legacy
We welcomed Jason to the world on February 26, 1984. He was 10 weeks early and thanks to the good people at Nationwide Children’s Hospital he recovered from his early health challenges and grew into a curious, energetic little boy.
As Jason grew he became interested in many sports – most notably, he began playing golf with his dad in fourth grade. We set aside time together to hit balls at the local golf course and soon it became a passion for him. It was a joy for us to spend this time with him, as he was our only child. He also liked playing baseball and basketball and together we watched with great interest and enthusiasm his favorite teams – Michigan football and Duke Basketball – whenever they were on TV.
As teachers, both of us were able to share a lot of our time with Jason. We were always proud of his every accomplishment, especially since Jason was a learning disabled student and often struggled with school. But he always worked hard and assured us his goal in life was to get his college degree. Like all young people, as he grew into his teenage years he spent more and more time with friends doing the activities he loved. He played on the Reynoldsburg High School golf team and thought he might one day want to manage his own golf course. He loved life and it’s a comfort to know he always lived it to the fullest.
Jason lived by the Three F’s of life that we all followed — Faith, Family and Friends. As an active member of his church youth group, he could always be counted on to help others and to be a role-model for his younger neighbors and friends. When he turned 16 he mentioned that he had signed up to be an organ and tissue donor when he received his driver license. We both thought that seemed true to Jason’s giving nature and we were happy he had made that decision. We had signed up to be organ and tissue donors ourselves, so we supported his decision as well. We didn’t know at the time that just a few short years later that simple conversation would impact so many lives.
On June 27, 2003 we got the call that every parent fears. Jason had been severely injured in a car accident and we were told to go immediately to Grant Medical Center. We spent the next few agonizing hours trying to take in all the information the doctors were sharing with us. We learned that Jason had a traumatic head injury and that he would likely not recover. On June 29, 2003, Jason was declared brain dead at the age of 19.
When Lifeline of Ohio approached us about the option of donation and reminded us that Jason had signed up to as an organ and tissue donor atthe BMV, we were comforted by the fact that others would benefit from Jason’s selfless spirit. He always gave his heart to others and it seemed appropriate that now his heart and other organs would continue to help many after his death. Jason was able to donate his kidney and pancreas to one man, his other kidney and liver to a woman and his heart to a man who has since witnessed the births of his great-grandchildren.
We feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to meet Jason’s heart recipient Russ, and his wife Betty. Since Jason’s death we had been in contact with Russ by phone and through letters. This past Christmas we were able to drive to his home and meet him in person.
As we sat with them in their family room, it felt like we had known them forever. We were welcomed into their family with open arms and hearts. The meeting touched our lives in a way we could have never realized. Since his transplant, Russ has made it through chemo for cancer and come out on the clear side! The doctor told him that his strong heart helped him in the recovery process.
We have attended events with Russ and Betty and two of their daughters, celebrating the “Gift of Life” and we look forward to joining more of our family and friends with their family at the Candlelight Vigil at the Statehouse on April 11.
In honor of Jason, we have established an annual golf-outing. The proceeds from this event fund a $2,000 scholarship each year to a learning-disabled student at Reynoldsburg High School, where Jason went to school. We use this opportunity to also help educate the golf outing attendees about the need for organ and tissue donation.
Although we miss him each and every day, we are consoled by the fact that, at the end of his life, Jason gave life. We mourn the fact that we will never see him graduate from college, get married or have children. As we have grieved Jason’s death, we were surrounded by friends, family and our school and church communities. They have helped us to get through each day as we remember Jason and the gifts he gave to us.
We do find comfort though in the knowledge that Jason’s legacy of life will continue on through his recipients. Knowing they are alive today because of a decision Jason made years ago has given us assurance that Jason’s life will never be forgotten and his light will shine on.
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