For this series of posts I’ve decided to take a different route and talk about something and someone very close to me. I am a very passionate person and although my parents are passionate, my extreme nature comes from my grandfather. To be more specific, my mother’s father.
My grandfather never graduated from high school, yet he was a very successful businessman. At 17 he entered the Army as a tank mechanic and fought in the Korean War. He was the mayor of our small town for years and owned a family silo business with his brothers. He had six wonderful kids and since then has many more grandchildren and one great grandchild.
He was notorious for having orange gummy slices in the house at all times. He had a pair of black, shiny cowboy boots, a grey Stetson and more belt buckles than I could count as a kid. He was the closest thing to John Wayne I’ve ever known. And ironically, his office was full of John Wayne memorabilia and The Duke’s movies have always been a staple in the Longuski household. Even more ironic, my grandfather and John Wayne were both born on May 29 and died six days apart (just several years apart obviously).
My story is not just about how great of a person my grandfather was, it is about the fight my family went through to keep him in our lives. One of the strongest memories I have as a kid was when I was five. My brother was three and my sister was just turning one. I remember my mother walking into our house and I ran up to her. I was so happy she was home because all I knew was that she had been gone so long. It felt like I hadn’t seen her in weeks. I honestly couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I had seen her. At five, time is relative. But sadly, shortly after that, I watched her walk out the door again and leave.
At five, I didn’t know what was going on. All I remember is waking up and not having my mother downstairs with my father. My mother wasn’t there to cook us dinner as much and sadly, she missed my sister’s first birthday. Now, that I look back at it, I know she did the right thing. She was standing by my grandfather’s bed while they fought for his life. She knew there would be more birthdays, dinners and nightmares to take care of. But she didn’t know how many more days or hours there would be with her father.
Once I got older, I found out exactly what had happened with my grandfather. He had a failing liver and liver disease runs in his side of the family. He was literally within days, if not hours, of death. I’m not sure about you, but at five, I never would have remembered anything about him. My family prayed for a miracle, for my grandfather to get a liver before it was too late.
Giving the gift of life, comes from another family’s tragedy. I am forever thankful and in debt to the family that decided to donate their loved ones liver. That liver gave me a grandfather. It gave me the opportunity to feel his bear hug, to see him at his best, to be able to remember his laugh and his deep booming voice.
Even in a time of difficulty, one person’s tragedy can be another person’s life. Even to the day my grandfather died his doctors said they never would have known his liver was a transplant if it wasn’t in his medical records. I thank God every day for the extra ten years I had with my grandfather. Even though he didn’t get to see me graduate high school or college, I know he is all around me. I know he loves me, I know he’s proud of me and he is guiding me through every decision in my life.
My hope is that you all consider organ donation seriously. It could bring a miracle to a family on their knees with no options left, only time and prayer. My next blog post in this series is about my family being on the other end of organ donation. Stay tuned for a tragedy turned to a miracle.
To learn more about organ and tissue donation click here.