Her Daughter Got My Daughter’s Heart — a Tale of Two Mothers

Amera two weeks after her transplant.

This week I did a podcast episode that is particularly personal  for me. In it, I have the privilege of interviewing the mother of Amera, the young woman who received my daughter Teal’s heart and kidney after her death.

As one mother to another, Debi and I certainly connect out of simple empathy for the path of motherhood. And we are both happen to be people who love to laugh, and enjoy a good chat. In fact, we genuinely like each other!

But we are also people who started out as total strangers, only to become inextricably linked on August 24, 2012. On that fateful day, Amera, Debi’s daughter, received Teal’s heart and kidney after 20 hours of surgery. Debi’s description of how beautiful Amera looked after the first phase of surgery, when she received her new heart, is breathtaking. For all around Amera, there was a shimmering, sparkling glow.

I say it’s the same glow I’d felt only a week earlier as I connected with Teal’s sparkling, shimmery essence in the afterlife for the first time. It was as effervescent and light as a cloud of champagne bubbles. And yes, just as Debi describes in the podcast, it was, indeed, glowing.

So we have become connected through destiny, karma, or whatever you wish to call it.

We are mothers who know what it’s like to sit by the side of your daughter’s bed, fearing her imminent death. And we are mothers who learned such decisions are not up to us, and so we both had to learn when to fight … and when to surrender.

Today, we are mothers whose DNA is shared in the body of one extraordinary young woman. And we are definitely better for this shared connection, as we both watch Amera thrive in the Cardiac Sonography program she is taking at … yes … the very same college Teal was about to start when she collapsed.

My path with Debi has been a really interesting one, because we didn’t even know each other until about three months ago. It was not until five years after Teal’s death that we all finally felt like we could meet. So we met at Ocean Beach, the very place where we scattered Teal’s ashes – which was Amera’s idea.

That night was an experience I’ll never forget. Of course, there were tears. But there was also a recognition of something so much bigger at work here. Especially when I played a video for them of Teal singing ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. “I feel like I know her,” Amera said simply after she watched the video. There was a basic, beyond-logic recognition for all of us of the God-sent nature of our connection.

Perhaps this is just a very vivid illustration of the connection we all share — the oneness we know about and yet, somehow, seldom glimpsed.

Amara is a thoughtful and highly sensitive young woman with an amazing life ahead of her.  That much I’m sure of. And as for me and Debi … well, we’ve both been through the ringer, but we agree that we have emerged better for it. Our experiences have been remarkably similar, as this episode will tell you if you choose to listen.

If you do, you’ll hear how Amera made her way with congestive heart failure for more than seven years, until it got to the point where she had to wear a wearable defibrillator vest — to shock her back to life in case she suddenly collapsed.

You’ll also hear what it was like for Debi knowing her daughter’s death was always in the shadows … until her life was finally saved because of my own daughter’s death.

It’s a conversation filled with hardship, hope, light and a lot of love.

I recommend you listen to this when you have a moment, and really get into the idea that we are all truly interconnected. Every last one of us. Even those of us who do not know each other at all. It’s a pretty wild concept when you think about it, and organ donation makes that truth extraordinarily clear.

Enjoy. Listen to the podcast here.

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Tapping Into the Joy of Life — A Word From Teal

Photo: Britt Nielsen

Photo: Britt Nielsen

This is the week each year when I celebrate, and grieve, the loss of my daughter, Teal. Four years ago she died from a medically unexplainable cardiac arrest … and since then she’s been anything but quiet.

So my entire perspective about both life and death have shifted radically. I no longer fear other people, or face the world with my tough-girl game face of intimidation. Instead, I’m far more interested in fun.

No longer must I know how everything will come out, or ‘work hard’ to micromanage and coerce results.Turns out I don’t have to grip and hold on to be safe.

Instead I’m learning to tap into the gorgeous flow that surrounds us, and ride the undulating waves of life with unexpected ease. And to accept what comes as necessary and important.

So I just surf – and when I fall off, and get sidetracked into some unpleasant emotional experience, I do my best to shake myself off, get back on the board and … ride! It’s a practice. And that’s the other thing — I don’t have to do it perfectly.

And so life has become fun again. Even death isn’t a particularly big deal any more.

When the worst thing that can possibly happen comes to pass, you discover an unexpected sweetness on the other side of that crisis. A transformation comes that makes your entire life far better.

If you allow it.

This morning I felt Teal around me, speaking into that small, still space between sleep and waking. It’s the very same space we heard a lecture about only a few hours before her collapse … the ethereal passageway that shamans travel in between the afterlife and our world.

And so I received a message from her that I am meant to share with you here.

Do not judge death with the same limited mind that barely learns or understands the potential in life.

You feel that potential sometimes in life’s magic – the touch of a lover’s hand, the triumph of a long-cherished dream. Or in the laughter of a child.

But you are afraid of that power and so you hang back.

Do not hang back. Instead, become quieter and quieter until you are fully suffused with the power and majesty of God who lives inside of you.

Then let go. Do what you want. Allow yourself to truly feel your own deep, soaring magnificence.

The full, God-given gift of life is available to those who do not fear death. For loss is only temporary, a fleeting stab of pain.