Giving Thanks in Indiana

The Thanksgiving holiday arrived with visitors from the United Kingdom. Annmarie and Richard Miles arrived from Ponypool, Wales, to visit my in-laws William F. and Diane Tucker. Crossing the Atlantic with them was their infectious humor, generous spirit, musical talents, and my brother-in-law Brandon’s cornea, implanted in Annmarie’s right eye. Brandon, an organ donor, died at the age of 35 on Feb. 23, 2010, while on a ski trip to Frisco, Colorado.

I asked Annmarie, a writer, to share her experience with readers in a double installment of “300 Words:”

I remember it so clearly. It was March 4, 2010, the day after my surgery. I sat in my bed in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. I was in some pain but not much. I was warm and comfortable; glad to have the operation behind me. Recovery would take time, but I was told the end result could mean better sight than I’d ever known, and a much-improved quality of life.

As happy and hopeful as I was, I felt a pang of sadness. I knew someone somewhere was grieving. I knew my gain meant someone had lost. And so I sat in my hospital bed, praying for the family of my cornea donor, and I asked God if someday He would give me the opportunity to say “thank you” to that family.

Less than a year later, I received a phone call from an administrator in the eye hospital. They had received a letter via the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in Colorado, which had supplied the cornea. The letter was from my donor’s mother, and the hospital needed my permission to forward it on to me.
Had I been able to climb down the phone and grab that letter, I would have done it. However I had to wait a couple of days for it to arrive in the mail.

That was the beginning of my connection to the Tucker family in Indiana. From that first letter, a friendship and kinship developed between me and my donor Brandon’s mom, Diane. The internet and social media have made conversations easy and regular, and this year (after talking about it for about 3 years) we finally got to meet.

▲ Left, Annmarie Miles and my mother-in-law Diane L. Tucker visit with Brandon, donor of Annmarie’s cornea, at Park Lawn Cemetery. Right, Richard and Annmarie Miles enjoyed the privilege of decorating Brandon’s Christmas Tree, displayed by his mother Diane in Bill and Diane’s East Side home.

In November, my husband and I traveled from our home in South Wales to Evansville for Thanksgiving. There we were welcomed by Brandon’s family. I got to say thanks to his mom and she got to look into my eye and see the little piece of her son that lives in me and helps me to see properly. What better opportunity to express gratitude than to be able to sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table with such a special family.

We got to be tourists, too! We experienced Black Friday shopping and some great local restaurants. We were brought on a tour of the area; taking in places where Brandon went to school and work, as well as some of the features of Evansville. On Sunday we joined with Brandon’s church family where we shared in leading some of the music and worshipped God together.

The quality of my vision has improved wonderfully since my surgery. And now I have further insight. When I think of Brandon, I can see the house he grew up in, the brother and sisters he grew up with, the parents who loved and raised him, and the church family who cherished him.

The word ‘awesome’ is over used these days, but that’s how it feels.  It was genuinely an awesome experience. I’m thankful!

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