“Grief is difficult. We all experience it — and we experience it differently” (from Soul Care When You’re Grieving, by Edie Melson). Though it may descend upon individuals uniquely, grief is an emotional response to loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of health. Loss of a job. Loss of hope.

Our community recently lost someone who, though not necessarily known by many, represented so much to those who called her friend. Kelly Reed — mother of three, Haywood Community College graduate, HART Theater supporter, and Pinnacle Church attendee — passed away Sept. 17, after undergoing her second double lung transplant.

I’d written about Kelly before (June 2021), telling how my ‘warrior’ friend was waiting for her second set of lungs after the first transplant in 2019 failed. She’d been diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2015. Although she no longer had this disease specifically, other respiratory issues remained which, untreated, would continue to worsen. Thus, the second transplant.

She was given the news Sept. 12, that her second set of lungs was on its way. Kelly underwent surgery to remove the first set of lungs, replaced by the new set. Sadly, her body was weary and never recovered from this arduous procedure.

Kelly passed, surrounded by her family, less than a week later. Like her children, her mom and siblings, I’m grieving her absence, but in my grief, I’m recalling what Kelly meant to me.

It was earlier this year while Kelly and I picnicked on her porch that reality hit, the truth that someone had to die for her to live. Lungs aren’t like kidneys after all, where the donor can donate just one and experience firsthand the difference his or her sacrifice makes in the life of another. With lungs, even if only one lung is needed by a waiting recipient, the donor has passed, having willingly agreed in life to donate upon his or her death.

This truth came up that late spring morning, and Kelly admitted that her desire to live hinged on the reality that another’s desires would go unfulfilled.

“It’s something that causes me to take pause and give thanks,” my warrior friend Kelly said. “I’m truly grateful for that person, whoever he or she may be.”

And while I’m sad that my friend is no longer with us, her words echo in my memory — encouraging me, like her, to pause and ponder.

Such is the season into which we’re entering — a time to count our blessings. An opportunity to give thanks. A season to appreciate the sacrifices many have made that we might experience and enjoy freedom and abundant opportunity.

At least two people at some time or another considered their decision, whether or not to be an organ donor — each deciding yes, and perhaps giving this choice little thought from that day forward. Still, because of their decision, one of them gave my friend more years to spend with her children, a couple more Thanksgivings with her family. The other, despite Kelly’s passing, gave her a few extra days, and that is no small matter.

For them, we are thankful.

And to their families, those who’ve suffered loss and will hurt upon seeing that empty chair at the table, I honor your grief, and I’m grateful for the sacrifice your loved one made.

For comfort in loss, read Edie Melson’s new release Soul Care When You’re Grieving. For information on becoming an organ donor, visit www.organdonor.gov/sign-up.

Maureen Miller is a writer who lives in the White Oak community. Visit her blog at www.penningpansies.com.

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