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Donor Stories

The Gift of Love and Life

On November 13, 2005, the dark secret that I had hidden in the deepest part of my heart was coming to be. You see, in 1988, in the quietness of my hospital room, I held my youngest daughter and gazed into her eyes.  I had an overwhelming sense that one of my daughters would be born into heaven before myself.

On that fateful day in November, my two daughters and I left in three different cars to celebrate their grandma’s birthday with the whole family. We were all at the restaurant except for Whitney, my oldest daughter. She had already told me what to order, but the food soon came and she still wasn’t there. I asked my youngest daughter, Haley, to call Whitney. The phone rang and rang and rang. In a moment, all our tomorrows disappeared into today. In a moment, all of our life pictures were torn apart and thrown away. In a moment, my nightmares all came true.

My daughter, Whitney Amber Riffe, had been involved in a one-car accident on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. She didn’t survive. She was 21 years old.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was surprised that she didn’t look hurt. All I noticed was a small scratch on her cheek.  I looked at her toes and counted them one more time and told her how much I loved her.

Later that night, I received a call from Lifeline of Ohio. The voice on the phone was calm, nurturing and expressed her sympathies for the loss of my daughter. She then reminded me Whitney was a registered organ, eye and tissue donor, a decision she made when she was 18. When first speaking with Lifeline of Ohio, it seemed very much like an “ending” of a young woman in her prime. However, as it was explained to me, I realized that Whitney chose to give the gifts of life, sight and healing. For many people, Whitney’s end was their new beginning.

Whit was able to donate her corneas for two people to see, heart valves to allow blood to flow freely and tissues to allow many to live a more productive life. In all, she was able to save and heal more than 50 people!

Three years after the accident, while I was going through Whit’s special keepsake box, I took out her wallet as I’ve done many times before. As I opened it, I saw something I had never seen before – in big, bold, red letters was the word “LIFE.” It was on that day I realized life is the greatest gift. I thought of why I was put here on this earth – to care for others through acts of love just as Whit did through donation.

The very next day my wife, Cathy, and I signed up to be Donate Life Ambassadors through Lifeline of Ohio. We have loved participating and sharing the message of organ, tissue and eye donation for the past ten years.  As Cathy and I, as well as the LGBTQ community, look forward to the Pride festivities, we are proud Lifeline of Ohio as chosen to BE a voice of action.

A photo we found on our camera after the Dash

I am humbled, because my daughter Whitney cared enough about people while she lived, to help them after she died. She loved to live and loved to give – won’t you do the same? Register today as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

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