Stephen just turned 22. Only a few months ago, he was home for Christmas, excited to get that new laptop that would let him do the graphic design layout he wanted to do for his senior project. Since his grades had been so good, we decided to go ahead and give it to him before graduation. Imagination radiated from his face that day. Now, the glory had drained from it, as he lay surrounded by beeping, pulsing machines that kept him tethered to life as by a spider’s string.
We got the call around 10:30 the night it happened. Stephen was driving back to IU after Christmas break when a car came toward him spinning out of control. They said it was a miracle that he survived at all, but he was hurt pretty badly. His brain activity stopped 5 hours after he arrived at the hospital. That was January 5th, three months ago today.
Rachel and I, of course, got on the phone to everyone we knew to ask them to pray. The church has been great. People come to sit with him, bring us food. One afternoon several ladies cleaned our house without telling Rachel. They timed it perfectly. When Rachel walked in exhausted from being at the hospital all day, she found not only a clean home, but also a fresh bed turned back, her robe and slippers laid out for her, and a hot drawn bath. A couple of days ago, Frank Collins, a CPA in our church, called. He offered to file our taxes for us so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I don’t know what we would have done without all their help the past three months.
Last week Dr. Greer told us about a young man in Virginia who needs a heart transplant. His name is Paul and he’s a little older than Stephen. He says that they think Stephen would be a match.
Rachel and I have prayed and struggled. How can we make such a decision? How can we let go of our boy? That chin is my very own chin. Look how his hairline is exactly like his mother’s. My son! My boy! Oh, God, why Stephen?
Dr. Greer says Paul will need an answer soon. We told him that we’d let him know by tomorrow, Friday. Good Friday. I’m not sure what could possibly be good about this Friday.
Rachel and I decided that tonight we would both go to the Maundy Thursday service at church. Martin and Phyllis, the leaders of our discipleship group, stopped by the hospital to take us out to dinner first.
I sat in the service, numbed by the looming choice before us. How can a father just let his son die? It goes against every fiber of my being. I know it is the right thing, but how can I say those words? How can I sign those papers? There might be another match for Paul out there somewhere. I don’t think I can do this!
The service was coming to a close and I had barely heard anything the preacher had said. The scriptures had been read about the triumphant entry and Jesus’ glory coming into Jerusalem, and then about the last supper and all the things Jesus told his disciples about how he would go to the cross but that he would be raised again. We were now supposed to go forward to receive communion. I sat and watched as the rows of people filed up the aisle. I watched as one after the other tore off the piece of bread, dipped it in the cup, ate it, bowed their head, and thanked God.
Rachel looked at me. We stood and made our way to the altar.
“The body of Christ, broken for you.”
“The blood of Christ shed for you. The peace of Christ be yours this night.”
“Thanks be to God,” we said, and we partook.
The only thing that broke the silence on the drive home was Rachel getting a couple of tissues out of her purse. A quiet grace was gathering around us.
This morning, we called our families, so they could begin to make arrangements. Dr. Greer and his team are prepped downstairs. And in a matter of hours, our son’s strong heart will be placed inside a young man in Virginia.