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December 23, 2018: Gifts of Peace and Life

by Chris Madison


Amidst all the joy, the Christmas season can bestow great sadness on those missing loved ones with whom they have celebrated in the past. For my three grown children and me, it will be the second Christmas without their mother, Jane Clark, my former wife, who died suddenly after she was hit by a bicyclist in downtown DC in March 2017. As a result, I had been approaching the holidays with some trepidation. 

However, this season has brought our family some unexpected joy in the form of a letter. It was from a young woman—no name or location was included—whose grandfather received a lung from Jane.

In the two days following Jane’s accident, we went through the elaborate and painful organ donation process, keeping a vigil with her while her organs were assessed and recipients found. As we said our final goodbyes, Jane was wheeled into an operating room at Washington Hospital Center where the organ harvesting was to take place. Since then, we had heard nothing, despite promises to keep us informed about whether the transplants were successful.

Then came this letter. The young woman said Jane’s lung saved her grandfather’s life and that he is now enjoying normal activities, including playing with his grandchildren.

For me this seems like a miracle, or at least a wonderful gift from God. It means that part of Jane is still alive, helping another grandparent. (Jane was just getting to know our first grandchild in the months before her accident.) Also, the senselessness of her untimely death has been eclipsed, at least in part. I no longer dwell so much on Jane’s ashes resting in a churchyard near Berryville, Virginia. I now think of her helping someone else, just as she nurtured her family throughout her life.

Finally, I can more easily grasp the miracle of Christ’s birth, which has been difficult for me to incorporate into my 21st century mindset. Perhaps the divine act of a dying person passing life and breath onto another is a different sort of nativity. Certainly it is an act of profound love. This Christmas my tears of sorrow now mingle with tears of joy at the thought of Jane’s continuing presence on earth, unseen but surely felt.

Last Published: December 19, 2018 2:39 PM
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