To my dad's donor, Justin,

Some parts I remember more vividly than others, but I could quite possibly reenact the scenario of my mother and I in a hospital waiting room nine years ago. It was an early, harsh January morning, and we were starving. We scavenged for local pizza places and other cheap and convenient eateries open at such an early hour, but only found success with a little local pizza shop. Don't ask me how I remember, but I do. At the time, that was my main concern. I was far too young to fully comprehend the situation at hand. I was thinking, "Why on earth are we here? And why does my dad need surgery? Will he die? What will happen to mom and me if this doesn't go OK? Where do we even get a new liver?"

Things went more than OK. My father recovered extremely quickly and was back to work faster than you could even ask how the operation went.

As I have grown older and (slightly) wiser, the significance of my father's transplant bears a much heavier impact on me than it did when I was 10 years old.

But what strikes my tender heart is this: I am 19 years old, and when you died, you were also 19.

You made a courageous and selfless individual decision early on when you registered to be an organ donor.

On a bitter January night in 2007, you passed in a car crash.

I just wonder. I wonder about a lot of things. I wonder where you were headed. I'm sure you were destined for greatness, at least I like to believe so. You were just so young. You will never stand at the end of an aisle waiting to receive a beautiful bride. You will never have children nor watch them graduate, and I'm so sorry.

I'm so sorry that you passed at the beginning of what was supposed to be the rest of your life. I'm sorry you didn't get the chance to finish college and work your way up in the real world. I'm sorry that you never got the chance to go to the casino with your friends and family on your 21st birthday. It hurts my heart to think that you never had the opportunity to meet and propose to the love of your life.

However, despite all of these heart-wrenching tragedies, you will forever be considered a member of our family. You matter a lot more than people think. It isn't something most people think about every day. But the older and older I get, the more I find myself thinking about you.

Justin, you illuminated our family in a time of medical distress and we will never be able to repay you and your family for their beautiful blessing amidst such a tragic crisis for your family. People like you are what give me faith in our increasingly cruel humanity.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my dad send me off to my school dances, proms, banquets, graduations and hopefully my wedding one day. I promise I'm living college up for you just like I know you'd want, because well, my dad is a little old for such tomfoolery even if he doesn't act like it sometimes.

There's just so much ambiguity about the whole thing. It's a huge grey area. I see you in the people who walk down the street. I see you with my friends at school, and my fellow employees at work. You just seem to have this presence about you that makes me feel like we've known each other for our whole lives, yet we've never even met, and you don't even know who I am.

I am the daughter of the man who received your liver, and I want to say thank you. Thank you for being selfless, caring and brave. Thank you for giving the most precious gift of life. You gave more than organs. You gave second chances, new outlooks on life and lifelong memories with my family. Thank you for teaching me more about life than I'll ever learn in a philosophy class.

But most of all, thank you for letting me keep my father.

I'll see you in heaven someday, you kindhearted soul.


The daughter of a liver recipient