Where do I even begin?
We knew things were ‘meant to be’ before we left for the airport last Friday morning, but nothing could have prepared us for the blessings we experienced all weekend long. It went by so fast, but not one minute was wasted, we spent every single waking one of them together with our donor family!
Thursday night, Mike, Tommy and I all went to bed too late, slept restlessly and awoke before ‘it was time’. Tommy came bounding in to our room around 5:30am, asking, “is it time, is it time…is it time to go yet!?” Mike and I both agreed that he woke up earlier and more excited than he did on Christmas! Nerves and emotions were high and off we went.
We made all of our airline connections on time and landed in Minneapolis safely. Once in the taxi, I texted our donor mom, Krista and told her we were on the way! She texted back that the four of them were anxiously waiting in the hotel boardroom, where we planned to meet, and couldn’t believe it was almost time! Tommy looked at me and asked, “Are they there?” I told him, “Yes, they are. They’re waiting for us and in ten minutes we’ll be with them!”
He paused and said, “Really? Wow, Mom…I haven’t been this excited since I heard I might be getting a new heart. I want to walk in the room first, ok?”
I fought back the tears and my stomach was in knots. We arrived at the hotel, and as Tommy pushed the ‘up’ button on the elevator, I sent Krista a text that told her we were close. We walked off, turned left, left again and there we were standing before the closed doors that said Boardroom 3. I opened the door, letting Tommy walk in first, and he walked right up to Krista. She knelt down and hugged him tightly with tears streaming down her face.
She reassured Tommy, “It’s okay. These are happy tears.”
Everyone introduced each other. There were lots of hugs, tears, and deep breaths. We then poured over some beautiful photo keepsake books of Audrey.
Our boys immediately hit it off with Audrey’s brothers (Casey, 20 and Chazz, 15). Soon it was time to head to the ballpark. What a night! We started out at batting practice where Tommy was able to reconnect with his friend, Tiger’s third baseman, Brandon Inge. As always, Brandon was beyond kind. He visited with Tommy, came over to meet our donor family, signed baseballs for all the kids and fulfilled Tommy’s request to sign a ball that read: “Thank you for Tommy’s Heart”. Again… tears.
Later we were all invited to be a part of the pre-game ceremony on the field to promote organ donation, while a moving summary of our story was told, as we stood together on the field, just a few hours after meeting for the first time. Everyone had a great time at the game and stayed long after it was over (Tigers won, by the way!).
The next morning we met for breakfast, did some interviews for the WDIV news story (that will air soon… we’ll let you know) and the kids got to do what they’d been begging to do since we arrived… swim in the hotel pool! Later we all went to the Mall of America and had various opportunities throughout the day to get to know more about one another, Audrey and our lives. It was so special, and helped to bring together so many pieces of the “puzzle” for both of us. We quickly learned how selfless and what big hearts our donor family have. We were given the opportunity to thank them face to face and try to put words to our gratitude for their gift to Tommy and our family. In return they thanked us for our openness and willingness to meet them and provide some healing for their deep loss.
We ended our day by all having dinner together at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Tommy and Chazz decided (after seeing the staff do birthday ‘parades’ with free desserts and wondering how they could get some to come our way), that they would tell the waiter about it being Audrey’s birthday the next day. Ten minutes later the restaurant manager came to our table with tears in his eyes and his hand over his heart. He told us he’d never heard such a story and would be right over with his singing staff!
Chazz and Tommy acted like it was no big deal and said, “We just told him our story and he started crying, but we’re getting dessert!”
The next thing we knew, eight waiters & waitresses came out clapping and singing. Tommy and everyone joined in the fun. Afterwards, a special little dessert was presented to Krista, with a hug from Tommy.
Throughout the weekend we talked a lot about Audrey. Krista, Sean and the boys noted many things about Tommy that reminded them of their outgoing, fun-loving, “social butterfly” (as they often referred to Audrey). Krista told me on Saturday that butterflies have an extra special place in her heart now, and when she occasionally sees one, it feels like getting a little ‘hug’ from God and Audrey (usually just when she needs it most).
Before we left the hotel to head to the airport, Tommy told Krista, Sean and the boys that they could listen to his/Audrey’s heart if they wanted. They did, and that too, was a very special moment.
Tommy really connected to Krista, Sean and the boys. They were holding hands, giving high fives, hugs, goofing around and just having fun. They decided to actually see us off at the airport. As we were closing in on our departure time, Tommy began to get upset anticipating saying our goodbyes. He told me he didn’t want to leave and asked when or if we would get to see each other again. I assured him we would see them again and stay in close touch. Once inside the terminal, we sat down with them and talked for a few more minutes.
Suddenly, Sean sat up and pointed off in the distance a bit and said, “Hey! Look! Over there… See it? It’s a butterfly!”
Krista and I leaped up, took a few steps in that direction, and sure enough, there it was. A vibrant butterfly was fluttering around inside the airport under the signs that read: Arrivals/Departures. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see butterflies that often and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one on the inside of an airport!
Tears filled our eyes and I put my arm around Krista and said, “Wow, there’s another gift this weekend. Something special – straight from God and Audrey. And on her birthday too!”
It was then time to say ‘goodbye’ and give our final hugs. With many of us in tears, we waved, looking behind us the whole way up the escalator until we could no longer see them.
A divine meeting, indeed. Blessings that words cannot describe and all of it a result of having open hearts. Seeing God’s hand at work this close up, is truly remarkable. Thank you for allowing us to share it with you.