To The People My Dad’s Organs Saved: Here’s How You Can Honor Him
My Dad died suddenly 3 weeks ago, and simultaneously saved 3 lives.
Three weeks ago, my world stopped. My father, David, had a massive brain hemorrhage that he would not survive. He was 57. It was sudden. So sudden that our family had hung out all day earlier that day, laughing and eating and enjoying each other’s company. He left my mother, Margie (55), me (24) and my two younger sisters, Nina (22) and Hallie (13).
It was the worst day of our family’s life. Receiving the news he would not survive brought my mother to her knees, while tears flooded her face and wails I’ve never heard before echoed in the room.
Shortly after, we learned he would be an organ donor and save 3 lives. A 41 year old male would receive his kidney, a 21 year old male his other kidney, and a 43 year old woman his liver. That was when I realized that the worst day of our lives became the best day for those three families.
We hope to meet the donors someday, but for now, here is how I would like them to honor my incredible, loving, one of a kind father, David Merrill.
Be kind. My dad was kind to everyone. By kind, I do not mean nice and polite. I mean genuine, asking ‘how you are really doing’ kind. He paid close attention to people’s stories, and would ask you about them months later. He knew every bartender and mailman by name and would ask them about their families.
He treated everyone with the utmost respect and dignity. While he was working as the vice president of a major company, he knew the factory workers by name. He hired people based on their character, not their degree. He understood deeply that kindness, compassion and connection outweighs brilliance every single time.
Be generous. My dad was generous to a fault. You were never at a dinner or bar or store of any kind where he didn’t pick up the tab. It was not that he had money to blow. It was just his love language. His generosity said, “As long as I’m around, you don’t have to worry about anything.”
He bought people plane tickets to see their families. He would pay for the person behind him at the grocery store. We never passed a homeless person without my dad giving them something. I remember walking into a Walgreens and my dad invited the homeless man outside to come in and pick out whatever he wanted. He did these things without hesitation and quietly, expecting nothing in return.
Live in the moment. My dad’s younger sister, Wendy, passed away when she was only 17. He never talked about this, but I knew it was the reason why he treated every day as the precious gift that it is. Early on, he knew that life is unpredictable, and it can all be taken in an instant. For that reason, when you looked at my dad, you saw a happy, peaceful, live in the moment kind of guy.
The things that mattered to him were always the little things: a delicious meal, a cold beer, a chat with a friend he hadn’t seen in a while. He hardly talked about the past, and only planned for the future when necessary. “The rest is details,” he would say, as the rest of us tried to plan and control every aspect of life.
Find the humor. If I had a dollar for every time my mother scolded at my father for making an inappropriate joke at an even more inappropriate time, I would be rich. I mean, fill-up-my-whole-gas-tank every time kind of rich. I remember plenty of times where life was really hard, really heavy, and my father would crack a joke. Although it may have pissed off some (who am I kidding, it definitely did!) his sense of humor always lightened a situation. “It’s just life,” he would always say, “Stop taking it so seriously.”
Admit your mistakes, and don’t hold people hostage for theirs. My dad used to say, “Fall on your sword.” In biblical terms, this literally means to commit suicide or give your resignation. My dad simply meant, “Surrender.” Surrender to your mistakes. Surrender to your shortcomings as a human being. Surrender to pitfalls and missteps and the things you regret. Surrender by owning up to being an imperfect human, and allow others to do the same. Life is way too short to hold a grudge. Let people be imperfect, and love them relentlessly anyway.
Tell people how much you love them. Regularly. I am so grateful that my dad was this way, because when he died, there wasn’t anything either of us had left to say to each other. I knew how much he loved me, and vice versa. He didn’t just do this with his family. He would regularly tell people things like, “You are so important to me,” or “I am so grateful to have you as a friend,” or “You are like family to me.” He would then list reasons why he loved them, and he meant each one wholeheartedly. If you were in my dad’s presence, you felt truly seen and loved. What else could you want from a person?
As the days go by and the bouquets of flowers start to die, I am comforted by the fact that my dad lives on in three other people. In truth, if he had known he could save three lives while he was living, he would’ve said, “Sorry fam, I gotta go.” It’s just the kind of person he was. I hope to live in honor of him, and I know the world would be a whole lot better of a place if we all did.