A Thin Line.

A Thin Line.

The complete and utter heartbreak from hearing “I am sorry your loved one has passed,” the complete and utter excitement from hearing “We have a kidney for you.” The sorrow and pain of hearing “We did all we could do, but we could not save your child,” the joy and heart lifting feeling of hearing “Please get to the hospital there is a heart on it’s way.” The ying and yang, the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, someones best day and someones worst. One life ends and one life begins anew. These are just a few of the polar opposites when someone passes away and someone else gets to live on. When your heart is breaking and someone else’s heart is full of hope for the future. There is no greater pain than to say goodbye to a child, a mom, a dad, a brother, sister or spouse. There is no lonely like the lonely when you walk through the door of your home, the same door your loved one walked out of for the last time. William Shakespeare said “The purpose of life is not to find your gift, but to give it away.” There is no truer statement when it comes to organ donation. We are given this life, these bodies are a gift. We are supposed to take care of them, treat them as if they where temples, but the abuse we put them through is sometimes detrimental. Once a kidney stops working, a liver quits functioning, the heart starts deteriorating, the lungs have no capacity, or numerous other organs begin to decline, we look to organ donation. The field of donation has come so far in the last ten years, the ability to transplant almost any organ has become a reality. But for this to happen someone has to die, someones son, daughter, mother or father has to lose their life for another to live. As many of you already know Lindsay was an organ donor. This was her own conscious choice at he age of sixteen. Her decision to save lives through donation fit right in with her dream of becoming a surgeon. So many times I have asked myself “Why her? Why did Lindsay have to pass for someone else to live?” The question will never be answered while I walk this earth. I will only get the answer when I leave this world and stand before God. The emotion felt when your loved one passes and you know someone else will live is virtually unexplainable. The immediate feeling of numbness passing through your body and you feel helpless, you feel as if your heart and soul has died right along with your loved one. At that point, the fact that someone else will live, someone else’s life will be extended does not matter to you, in fact it almost brings you to anger.  I had to come to realization that it was not the recipients fault that Lindsay passed away, they did not wish for her to have an accident that Sunday afternoon in August of 2016. I have only been on this side of organ donation, I only know the hurt and the pain of loss. I do not know the joy and elation of getting that phone call telling the recipient to get to the hospital as soon as they can. I personally know one of the recipients of Lindsay’s donations. She is a wife and a mother of two. I work everyday with her husband and her son. She was in almost complete kidney failure and Lindsay was able to save her life and give her many more years to spend with her family. Even knowing the recipient does not make the loss any easier, it does not make the pain any less. I had taken quite a bit of time off from work after Lindsay passed away and when the time was drawing near for me to return there was one thing I had to do. I had to see her and her husband, I did not want the first time I saw her husband to be at work. I did not know how I would react. Would I break down and cry, would I want to punch him, would I be happy for him, would I hold some sort of resentment for his gain and my loss? We did meet, and the first thing she said was “Lindsay is right here” as she  patted her lower abdomen. When I saw the smile on her face and the tears running down her checks all of my anxiety, all of my fears, where gone. We had an amazing visit and we talked about her surgery and of course we talked about Lindsay. You could see in her eyes the pain she felt for us but in her voice you could hear the appreciation for the sacrifice made. I often wonder if the other recipients that received Lindsay’s donations ever think about our family, if they ever think about the fact that a seventeen year old young lady had to die for them to carry on. Do they ever think about who she was, what she had accomplished, or where she was headed in this life. 

I asked Jeanne Connolly, who works for Carolina Donor Services, and has become a good friend to our family, to send me a statement concerning both sides of this life altering time. This is what she sent to me, “From what I have been a part of with the recipient families that resonates over and over again is that while sometimes writing or receiving a letter to the donor/recipient families can be difficult because they know that their loved one had died which allowed them to live, which is a struggle sometimes. When a donor recipient family meeting happens it brings a sense of knowing that the decision to donate has given both sides a bond that brings a sense of peace and understanding. One donors mother who met her son’s heart recipient said there  was finally a sense of calm and knowing that her son still lived on. As she listened to his heartbeat in the recipients chest it was what she had needed to get that peace. Every year on Mothers day the recipient sends flowers to his donor mom and they have established an ongoing relationship. In his words: The best tribute I can give to my Donor and his family is to live.

It is a fine line we walk as the survivors of a donor, a fine line between hurt and happiness, between loss and living, between grief and gratitude. This fine line often seems to grow even thinner on days that we truly miss our loved ones. On days we know that someone, somewhere is walking, talking and breathing. but they are not.  It is a fine line we will walk for the remainder of our lives, but knowing that the best tribute a recipient can give to their donor and family is to live does make the line a little broader.



The Why Day

The Why Day

Mark Twain once said “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”  

I believe we can all say we have the first day nailed down, the day we were born was very important, not only in our lives, but in the lives of our parents. The day we were born truly was the first day of the rest of our life. It was a day that set in motion a vast, infinite amount of paths that have lead us right were we are today. Now, where we are  has been a result of decisions, circumstances and conclusions that have had many forks in the road and it has been up to us to choose which way to go. All of these paths should have led us to the second part of Twain’s statement, “…the day you find out why.”  I am not sure about you, but after fifty three years I am still looking for that flashing neon sign that says, “Today is the day you find out why.”

After I read Twain’s quote, for what I believe, was the very first time, I began to think long and hard about “the why day.” Was it the day I was born? Was Twain insinuating that both days were actually the same day. I know the minute I arrived in this world I had no true thought process, although, I am sure I was tired from the move and I have no doubt I was hungry. But was that day in October many years ago my day to know why? It could have been for my parents, because like all parents, we feel the day our children are born is the greatest day of our lives. We feel like that is why we are put on this earth. to keep the human race moving forward by bringing new life into existence, but is that wonderful day a “why” day? Or could the “why” day be a day you, through no conscious effort, change the life of someone you did not even know? A simple act of emptying the change from your car into the hands of a hungry person who has been down on their luck. Could it be a loving word of encouragement that brings someone back from depression and the darkest thoughts of suicide. Could your day have been yesterday when you showed a random act of kindness and an anonymous onlooker with the hardest of hearts began to soften and realize the joy of compassion. Could your day have unknowingly already passed or is it still waiting to arrive? How do we find out what day our why day is? A question so many will spend a life time asking and may never get the answer.

A life time. To many, this statement means longevity, years of living, years of experiences, years of family and years of love. To me, so far, it has been fifty three years. To others it was only a few hours, a few days, a few months or seventeen years. To the ones that only made it a few days, a few months or seventeen years, I feel they are looking down and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what their “why day” was, it was the day, if they were organ donors, they became a hero. It was the newborn that passed away in their mothers arms. It was the toddler that fought the most courageous fight against a disease they never heard of. It was the father of two that worked every day to save lives running into burning buildings. The mom that said an oath to protect and serve so we could all sleep in peace. It was a beautiful seventeen year old young woman, it was my daughter. It has been every organ donor that has been a hero and a life saver. Lindsay, my daughter, lived a lifetime in seventeen years. She was the one giving her change to a down and out person, she was the one sitting and listening to a friend and bringing them back from a very dark place, she was the one showing a random act of kindness to those who felt unwanted, unliked, or shunned by the popular crowd. She was a leader, she was a sister, she was a friend and she was an organ donor. In my heart and mind she had many days that I thought were her “why day,” but I am almost positive, the lives that she saved would think differently. I have accomplished a lot in my life, and because of Lindsay I have accomplished so much more. I have stood behind a podium many times in front of hospital CEO’s, surgeons, doctors, nurses and family members of other organ donors and told Lindsay’s story. I have become the President of a foundation that we, her four parents, started to continue her legacy and to support the charities Lindsay was involved with. I started a blog for my own therapy and to help other grieving parents. I have become a published author, to help share how I, a father, handled and am still handling the loss of a child, and to hopefully help the next father understand he is not alone. But my “why day” is still yet to come, my day will come with the same sadness and grief that is shared by so many everyday. My “why day” will be my last, when I close my eyes for the last time and know in the depths of my soul, “why.” My day will also bring joy to random strangers and their families as they know their love ones now have a fighting chance. Strangers that in the mist of their joy, morn for the donor and their family. My day will come when I am standing beside Lindsay and we both know our two most important days and why.

Please, if you have not registered to be an organ donor,

let today be the day

you know your




The pain is still the same…

The pain is still the same…

As I sit in the lanai of my home looking out over the water and watching the sunrise I am thinking of the past two days and the people that have crossed my path. It is amazing how some days you can randomly meet people that touch your life and remind you that there is a purpose to the life you are living. On Friday, I had the honor of meeting a woman, that just two weeks earlier, lost her son. We meet through a vendor at our monthly market. The vendor approached myself and Kelli and told us about this women’s loss. Once she pointed her out I was hesitant to approach her because I know what she was feeling, I know the feeling of parental grief and all the pain that comes with it. I know what it is like to be in the middle of a hundreds of people and feel so alone. I know that sometimes you just want to be left alone and you don’t want to talk about your loss. After Kelli went up to her and she began talking, I also walked up to her and just stood there and listened for a moment. I heard that she was out with two of her friends and it was the first time she had left her home. I heard the pain and sorrow in her voice, a sound I so vividly remember. I was introduced to this lady and she began to tell me about her son, thirty three years old, and I told her about Lindsay. They were both donors and through their selflessness, they both saved lives. She had tears in her eyes as her sons death was still very fresh in her heart. I gave her a big hug and told her, “I have been right where you are today Sweetie. No matter the age the pain is still the same. We have just meet but now we are connected for life.” I continued to tell her even though we had just met,  if she ever needed me or just wanted to talk all she had to do was reach out. She asked if I knew of a group that she could attend, a support group of some type that would help her get through this very early days of grief. I highly recommended the group Compassionate Friends. I told her how much this group had help Lindsay’s mom. The support, the fellowship and the comradery they give truly helped, and still helps, Kellie through each day. She asked her friends to please remember and help her follow up on going to a meeting. As we parted ways I gave her one more hug and whispered in her ear, “Ma’am, time will ease the pain, but the hurt will always remain. Remember the good, concentrate on the happy, and always, always say his name.” Now with tears in both of our eyes we said goodbye, for now.

On Saturday, as I was standing in our space at the market when a short, small framed smiling red head came walking up, it was Ms. Jeanne Connolly. Jeanne has been our “go to” person with Carolina Donor Services and has always been a huge supporter of the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation. She always brings a breath of fresh air anywhere she goes. Jeanne has asked me to speak at a various venues telling Lindsay’s story and the donor family side of organ donation. Little did she know what an effect it would have on my grief recovery. Only a few moments later Mrs. Jill Helm came walking through our doors and she did not come alone. You see Jill is the recipient of one of Lindsay’s kidneys, and carries a very special part of our heart with her everyday. What a wonderful day seeing Jeanne and Jill at the same time.

I so often think of my grandparents, Frank and Maylor Gore along with my other grandma, Ethel Benton. My grandparents had a total of ten children, six sons and four daughters. Before my grandparents left this world at the ages of 89, 86 and 100 they lost a total of 4 children and two grandchildren. My grandparents Frank and Maylor lost three sons and two grandchildren, my grandma Ethel Benton lost a son and also her husband. The youngest son lost was 16 and the oldest was 58. The youngest grand child was 10 and the oldest was 39. I try sometimes to put my self in my grandfathers shoes, the loss of multiple children is unfathomable to me. We lost one, and I don’t know if I would make it through another.  I remember as a young child sitting at my grandmother’s house and just watching her sit, rock and cry. I could not understand why she was so upset, why she was so distraught, why she would not go to the funeral. After we lost Lindsay I understood completely. The grief of losing a child is indescribable, and the pain that fills your heart is immeasurable.

Death does not discriminate, it does not check birth certificates or drivers licenses, it does not know age at all. It does not look at color or nationality, it does not care about religion or any other beliefs. Death does not, never has or never will, follow any schedule. By the time you finish reading this blog, in the United States alone, two people per second have died, 105 people per minute have left this world and 6,316 people per hour have left loved ones behind. I can assure, you no matter the cause, no matter the reason, they did not choose death, death chose them. I am asking that when you finish reading this blog don’t procrastinate, use one of the many ways we communicate these days and tell someone you love them, tell someone you miss them, tell someone you care.


Be a donor..

Be a donor..

I was asked to speak at Wilmington Christian Academy during National Donate Life Month on organ donation and being part of a donor family. Through all the personal experiences and research I felt I should share this information with you. So I have inserted a portion of my speech below.

I would like to ask all of you a question… How many of you watched the super bowl this year?? Okay, well for those of you who did not it was played at the US Bank stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This stadium holds 66,955 people at capacity. Now imagine a second stadium sitting right next to the US Bank stadium it also filled to capacity, that’s 133,910 people, that is approximately how many people are waiting for a life saving organ transplant in the United States today. Every ten minutes someone in the United States is added to the national donor list. That is six people an hour and 144 people a day. Now, on average there are 92 people saved every day with a lifesaving transplant. On the other hand, an average of 20 people a day pass away while still waiting for a transplant. One donor can save up to eight lives, 8! Last year on average over 6000 people a day passed away in the United States from various causes. If everyone in the United States were an organ donor the 20 that pass away daily, while waiting for a transplant would have a fighting chance. In 2016 there were 33,600 transplants and in 2017 there were 34,000. As you can see every year the number rises. The first transplant performed in the United States took place in 1954. It was a living transplant between twin brothers. One brother gave the other a kidney. Since then, mainly starting in 1988, over 683,000 successful transplants have taken place in the United States. There are a lot of variables that come into play when an organ transplant is performed. The recipient patient and the donor patient must match in a variety of different areas, blood and tissue type being the major factors before moving forward. Another factor, if the patients match, is time. There are only hours between patients if a successful transplant is going to take place. For instance, there is a four-hour window on a heart transplant. That’s four hours to get the heart from point A to point B. Imagine if you lived in Hawaii or Alaska and you needed a heart transplant your percentage for getting a heart would be greatly decreased. Even living on an opposite coast would be pushing the envelope for the time allowed. There is some good news on the time line for transplants. While speaking at a meeting in Durham N.C. for Carolina Donors Services I saw a presentation from Duke Medical Hospital. They have a concept for a new device that will double the time allowed to transport a heart for transplant. This new device will add precious hours to save the lives of many, lives that before would not have a chance.

Let’s bring things a little closer to home. In the state of North Carolina there are 3,140 people waiting for an organ transplant. Out of the 3,140, there are 2,686 waiting on a kidney. Since 1988 there have been 21,140 lives saved or changed due to organ transplants. The largest age group for these recipients is 50-64. On the donor side there have been 5,679 donors since 1988. The largest age group for donors are between the ages 18-34. That is 3.72 lives saved per donor. Lindsay was able to save 3 lives, allowed 2 people to see for the rest of their life and help untold numbers of people by having her heart donated for research.

There are many myths concerning organ donation and they are all just that, MYTH’S.

  1. You can’t be an organ donor if you are too young or too old.

This myth can be disproved by the oldest donor in the world. She was 107 years old, lived in Scotland, and donated her corneas so that someone else could have better sight. The oldest donor in the United States was 92. This donor donated their liver to save a life. Sadly, you are also never to young to be a donor. There have been several new borns that have lost their lives during or shortly after birth that have become donors. No one is too young or too old to be an organ donor; the condition of your organs is more important than age.

  1. Doctors don’t work with the same urgency to save your life if they know you’re an organ donor.

It is the job, and the passion of every doctor, nurse, and first responder to save lives. They have all taken an oath to perform whatever medical procedures are necessary to save a life. I can assure you this myth is untrue. Lindsay received the best care possible from the second she arrived at the hospital until the second she passed away. There was never a question of her care, or treatment. That care continued after Lindsay passed away, a representative from Carolina Donors Service escorted her into the operating room. There he introduced Lindsay to the entire staff and stayed with her throughout the entire surgery.

  1. If you’re not in great health, you shouldn’t sign up to be a donor.

You may be surprised that most health conditions do not disqualify you from donating your organs and tissues. While you may not be able to donate certain organs, other organs and/or tissues may be perfectly fine. Doctors and donor personal will assess your organs at the time of death to determine if they can be donated.

  1. Doctors will take all of your organs, even if you only want to donate one.

Another myth I can put to rest, you or your love ones can specify what organs are to be donated. After the consultation with donor services a legal document is signed stating the specific organs to be donated. And as I stated before, a representative will accompany your love one the entire time.

There is a lot more information concerning myths with organ donation on the DMV website along with Donate Life and Carolina Donor Services. Please feel free to look up and read all the myths about organ donation. If you have any questions or concerns you can contact me or anyone in my immediate family and we will do our best to put your concerns to rest.


Becoming An Organ Donor

You can become an organ donor in a variety of ways. You can go to Carolina Donor Services or Donate Life and register, we were suprised to learn you can register on line from the age of thirteen on up. You can register at the DMV when you get your license, you can even register using your HEALTH app on your iPhone. If you have registered and are passed the age of eighteen the hospital and the donor coordinator does not need your parent’s permission to proceed with starting the process, but as in Lindsay’s case being she was seventeen, the donor services needed our permission. Once you register online or at the DMV it is a legal binding contract, but there is no donor service that will go against the wishes of the  family. The time in which a love one has passed away is not the time to force the issue. They are in enough pain and have had their hearts truly broken. This is why what I am about to tell you is the most important part of becoming an organ donor. Have a conversation with your family about what your wishes are. Let them know you are a donor, or want to become a donor. Let them know you want to help save lives, let them know you want to take the pain and devastation and turn it into something positive. As a donor father I will tell you knowing Lindsay was a donor does not help in her loss, it does not help everyday when I miss her so bad it hurts, it does not help when I think about what she could have accomplished, but what it does do, it makes me proud to be her father, it makes me proud that we, as a family, helped fulfill her dream to save lives.

Please, if you are not an organ donor consider becoming one. There are so many lives that are effected by checking that tiny black box.