My plan was to have an enjoyable evening with family and friends.
I didn’t expect this.
In fact, because I didn’t expect it, I didn’t have my camera out, ready to take a photo of the moment.
But nonetheless, my mind captured it all.
A teenage girl (who is a distant cousin) beautifully began the National Anthem.
The pace car did its normal loop around the track, carrying with it the American flag.
Joey Gase (another cousin and local NASCAR driver) followed closely behind.
And following him was our friend Brian Gibson, in his late model-class #17 race car.
Unexpected tears began to well.
Have you ever experienced this? Emotions bubbling up that weren’t present a few minutes prior? Or at least you didn’t think they were?
You see, it was Iowa Donor Network night at the racetrack last evening. Joey’s mom, Mary (with whom I attended high school and was my hairstylist), and Brian’s wife, Jill (my dear friend), both passed away from brain aneurysms just years apart. Both were also organ donors.
I wasn’t expecting these emotions. I wasn’t expecting both the grief and the joy to collide in my heart once again.
Grief of the loss of these two beautiful women.
Grief of missing my friend.
Joy in the confidence of where they are today.
And joy in knowing others’ lives are better and have hope because of the gifts they gave… their organs.
I couldn’t stop my mind from reliving that Wednesday morning with Jill. (My simple writing back then explains if you care to read my post from last year.)
Thankfulness filled me.
Thankful God used me that morning.
Thankful for Jill and her friendship.
Thankful we were there to support and celebrate last evening.
Thankful for the friendships that have grown from knowing Jill.
Thankful I’ll get to see her again some day.
My mind returned to the scene in front of me as I heard the soloist sing, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
These women were two of the bravest I’ve known.
And as the Anthem ended, Brian crossed the finish line. That wasn’t a race, but it symbolized for me Jill beautifully finishing her race on this earth. So much so, God called her home.
Many lessons can be drawn from this, but two that stood out for me were:
1) God will call each one of us home in His timing. Even if it doesn’t make sense to us, and even if it’s painful for us, God is trustworthy and will bring good out of dire circumstances, somehow, some way.
2) Be an organ donor. I became one after Jill’s passing.
Friend, continue seeking God’s will and purpose for your life. Life each day fully. Give your best. Appreciate the little moments.
And if I may be so bold, I encourage you to be an organ donor. Visit http://donatelife.net or if you live in Iowa visit http://www.iowadonornetwork.org. A few simple steps can lead to a changed life, filled with hope and promise.
The lives of Jill and Mary live on through others.
Later in the evening, Brian crossed the finish line first as the checkered flag waved. Great job, #17. Jill would be proud.
(Photo credit: KC McGinnis / The Gazette)
Those who were touched by her life sure are.
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