This is a true story about a wonderful, giving young man in the foothills of the Middle Appalachians of Virginia.
As I parked out front of the office on that beautiful crisp winter morning, for some reason I briefly thought of David. I smiled to myself as I thought about what our first conversation on this morning would be. During each visit, David would come in and discuss what type of rental car I had rented that trip.
David was the son of the owner of the company. He performed light jobs; picking up and delivering the mail, picking up supplies, etc. Aged 33, he had been on three different organ transplant lists for 2 years. Both kidneys were diseased, and he’d received his first transplant at age 17. That transplant was successful for almost ten years. The second transplant followed shortly, but failed after only two years. The result was that David had no functioning kidneys and was on home dialysis each night of his life.
David was special because he didn’t expect people to treat him differently just because of his illness. He had a ready smile and a slow wit that made you like him, instantly. In the summer, he shared the roses from his backyard garden with the ladies in the office – and I was always included if I was lucky enough to be there.
This trip was to be different. I learned, with great sadness, that David had been laid to rest just days before my arrival. His tired, diseased body could no longer fight the infection, and he hadn’t been lucky enough to receive another transplant.
In that rural area of Virginia where neighbors are neighbors and everyone knew everyone – David’s funeral was one of the largest they had ever seen. Over 2,600 people gathered to say their final goodbyes to this young man who had made such an impression on their lives because of his spirit, his determination, and his genuine love of people and of life. In the small town, tears came to the eyes of the clerk in the grocery store who vowed how much she would miss him. His death had brought great sadness. I couldn’t help but wonder if he realized the joy that he had brought to so many – he had left a void that would be hard to fill.
It was said that, although he was only 33, his body was like that of an 80 year old man. David had felt the pain of rejection in attempting to, once again, find a kidney, and to the surprise of his family, he had donated the only good part of his body that was left; his eyes.
Perhaps the person, or people, who were lucky enough to receive David’s eyes, will be able to see the world as he saw it. Somewhere, someone is seeing again because of David, and hopefully those eyes are smiling, because the young man who once saw through them always smiled.