I am going to share a bit about my dad, Gregg. My dad was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He played baseball, basketball, and ran track. At just 17 years old and fresh out of high school, he enlisted in the Air Force. He spent a year in basic training and then headed off to Vietnam. My mom said he had a desk job over there, but would go out with the Army every now and then – which he wasn’t supposed to do. While serving in the Air Force my dad met my mom and they were married just after 6 months. He spent 20 years in the Air Force and retired right before my older sister and I were born. We always joked with my dad that my mom outranked him as my mom was captain and my dad, master sergeant. After his service in the Air Force, he spent more than 20 years working in the circulation department at the newspaper in White Bear Lake so that people in our community could get the local news they needed.
My memories of my dad are most reflected in the words we chose for his headstone – “Remembering Love and Laughs.”
It was January 1st, 2009 when my life suddenly and dramatically changed. While most people think of New Year’s Day as a day of new beginnings and promises of the coming twelve months, I now think of New Year’s Day very differently.
I was home from college for the holidays and was working at a movie theater, a very busy scene on New Year’s Day. My work was interrupted when my manager frantically told me there was an emergency at home. I immediately called my mom and she said just three words I will never forget – “It’s your dad.”
Just a day earlier, my dad had been complaining of some breathing problems. At the time, he pushed it aside and thought it would either get better or he’d deal with it later. I rushed home and was greeted by a scene of paramedics and fire fighters. My father had collapsed at home. The first responders worked tirelessly to save him, but despite their best effort his injury was life-ending. My dad died that day from a blood clot that traveled to his heart.
Later that night, the phone rang. Upon answering the phone, my mom was greeted by Kathy Jolly from LifeSource. She was calling because my dad was eligible to be a tissue donor. My dad was not donor designated on his driver’s license, so LifeSource asked us for authorization. While Kathy doesn’t remember the conversation as it was 6 years ago and she has talked to hundreds of families since then, what my mom remembers about the conversation was how surprised Kathy was that my mom said yes to donation so quickly. My sister and I were also immediately on board with the decision. Donation was consistent with who he was – generous, helpful and kind. Also, about a decade earlier my grandmother was an eye donor when she passed away. Like his mother, my dad was able to donate his eyes, plus bone and skin from his forearms.
A few days later we received some materials in the mail from LifeSource. One of those things was the green Donate Life bracelet. Something about the bracelet struck me that day. I put it on and didn’t take it off for three years. I would look at the bracelet, and it gave me calmness through the chaos. People would ask me about it, and it gave me a sense of comfort. It was a visual reminder that something good came out of something so tragic. Three years later, when I decided to remove it, I felt I was beginning to move on ever so slightly in my grief journey. When I took the bracelet off I put it on top of my dresser and there it remains today.
When I saw a job advertised in 2012 for the Office and Facility Administrator position I didn’t make the connection that LifeSource was the organization that had worked with my family three years earlier. It wasn’t until I was speaking with my mom about the position that she said right away “Yeah, that was the organization that your dad donated through.”
Since joining LifeSource my sense of donation has definitely changed. While I was an advocate for donation before, I would say now that the mission has changed my life. As I see the work that is done here by everyone first hand, my appreciation has grown exponentially.
When I think about my dad I remember his obsession with fantasy league sports and Minnesota teams, his addiction to KFAN radio station, his imposing figure (he was 6′ 4″), and his love of deer hunting and golf. My memories of my dad are reflected in the words we chose for his headstone – “Remembering Love and Laughs.” That couldn’t be a more true statement.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.