This semester one of my classes if Grief and Crisis Counseling. It’s an elective, but I thought it would be beneficial for me to take. I’m hoping it’s a time for me to learn appropriate and beneficial responses to clients in times of deep suffering and sadness and also a time for me to work through my own fears and issues. It’s been interesting so far… last week we took a field trip to a local funeral home to learn about how different cultures mourn and/or celebrate the life of a loved one who is gone. I know it may not seem like a “fun” class to take, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And, something I feel like I need.

One of our assignments is to research some form of grief in order to write a paper and give a presentation. I decided to do mine on the sorrow associated with organ transplants. It may not be something that everyone might think of, but it is on the forefront of my mind since it’s a journey my family has walked for the past three plus years. In a short version, here’s the basics of our story…

I’ve grown up with an extremely healthy, overachieving, motivated, passionate mother. She never took “no” for an answer and there never seemed to be anything she couldn’t do. She was an algebra/geometry teacher for middle and high school students from August to May, and our summers were filled with yard work, house cleaning, waxing cabinets, field trips, and so much more. She has always had a busy, fast-paced life filled with joy and purpose. When she finally reached her time for retirement, she already had a list of things she wanted to do and pursue. Only a few months into her new/retired life, she found herself growing tired with each new day and she was beginning to experience difficulty with minor things, like climbing the stairs in her home. A doctor’s visit (to get tips on how to get in better shape) revealed a rare, fast-acting heart disease. It wasn’t long before her only option for improving her quality of life was a heart transplant. Many patients spend their time waiting for a heart in the hospital; but not her… she was determined to stay home and fight to continue life as normal. That still included stays in the hospital every couple of months and lots and lots and even a little bit more of medication. Her wait time was almost two years exactly. Two years of ups and downs, hope and discouragement… all the while battling the idea that a transplant was actually going to happen. Valentine’s weekend 2011, she got a call that they had found a match… in the middle of a huge snow and ice storm. The next 24 hours leading up to the actual surgery is a story within itself – at one point thinking that it was merely going to be a “dry run.” It’s been a year and a half since her transplant, and doctors have said that the transplant isn’t a cure, but an opportunity for a better life. She will always operate at about 80 percent of what she used to be/feel, and that’s on her good days. But we are thankful… I am thankful… She is an amazing woman with a miracle story. Ups and downs may continue, but she will always be a fighter… always a hoper… always a believer in joy… always living each day to serve someone other than herself.

I asked my mom to visit my class this week and take some time to share her story… it’s not one you hear every day. It was raw and true with several tears, she too remains a work in progress. The things that have helped her get through each day and press on into the unknown: a strong support system of friends and family, a strong team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrist, social worker, pharmacist, insurance rep, etc., tasks/activities/responsibilities that continue to help her feel valuable and purposeful, and admirable faith. She will always be one of my heroes… as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a Christian leader, a friend, and Godly woman.

So no matter your grief/loss/sadness story and/or journey… I’ve learned that it is difficult to face and overcome. It is deeply personal, and it impacts more than just you. We can’t ignore it or run away. But, it can be better when someone is walking the journey with you… make a courageous decision


About melanieahill

I am a wife, graduate student, church staff member and most importantly, a work in progress. I am studying to become a licensed professional counselor and I absolutely love to cook.... and eat. I also love to travel, do some basic gardening and maybe one day I'll be a mom. There's a lot that I've learned in my 30 years, but I also know there's a lot more to go. It's an exciting journey!


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