I was so afraid to be a mother before I had you. I was scared about being a good mother, about getting the right car seat, the right formula--and the moment I feel your tiny body in my arms my fears only grow. You are so small, so delicate. Oh, but you are perfect, your blue eyes drifting around the big, bright, new world.
The rhythmic beeping brings me out of my thoughts in small waves. I smile a little, looking down at your eyelids covering those sea blue eyes. My fingers tremble over your pale cheek.
“Mom!” You scream in a voice that makes my mom stomach drop to my knees. I can hardly move, yet somehow I am running and scooping you into my arms. It’s the day you break your arm. I have never been more afraid. I drive you to the hospital so fast, I must be breaking the sound barrier. You are fine, of course, and soon your little fingers are making shadow puppets on the hospital wall. When you meet the doctor, your eyes widen like dinner plates. You think he is a superhero because he saved so many lives, and in a way he is.
A doctor walks in, but I kept my eyes on your chest. The air moving in and out, slowly, steadily. I spread my hand over the hospital gown and felt the steady strong drumbeat of your heart hitting my finger tips.
A fireman cop doctor astronaut. Oh, you give the neighbors a laugh that Halloween as you walk door to door holding your sister's hand, she in her more acceptable princess costume. You want to be everything when you grow up. When I ask you why, you say you want to save people, like the superheroes in your comic books. I love the way you draw yourself into the comics you make for your sister.
Your father’s hand gently lifts up mine, pulling it away from your chest. I wanted to look at him, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. The clock is spinning like a loose wheel, yet eons pass between each blink.
The day you sign up for your license you have just been accepted to that new summer program. Oh, your father and I are so proud. I hold you in my arms, even though you try to wriggle away. When you ask if you should check that little box, I hardly think about it--my mind still on your latest achievement--and I nod. You are off and away in that shiny blue car before I know it.
Then one night, we receive that phone call…
“It’s over,” The doctor says softly. “Time of death 8:52.”
I turn away from you for the first time and bury my face into your father’s shoulder. My little superhero, my little fireman, cop, doctor, astronaut. You are gone.
“Your son was an organ donor.” I hear the sheets of paper on a clipboard, and my heart swells.
Your father responds because he knows I can’t.
“He always wanted to save lives. We are so proud.” His words are short and choked, but he is right, and I nod against his sweater.
* * *
Has it been three years since you left? The old coffee shop is busier than I thought it would be. I try not to look up from my empty mug every time the bell jingles above the door.
I am meeting a little boy. You saved his life.
“Mrs. Webster?” My heart jumps when I look up.
He reminds me of you.
He’s only eight, his messy hair sticking up around his ears like yours used to when you refused to brush it. I have to bit my lip when I see the superhero costume he's wearing, all blue and red, edges frayed from overuse. Don’t worry, it can’t compete with that Halloween costume you wore so many years ago.
We talk about you and your comic books and scholarships and track meets. We talk about the boy in front of me, who holds a little part of you inside like a living monument. He’s shy at first, drawing little monsters on his napkin with a wet straw. But when we talk about superheroes, he forgets the straw and his doodles start to fade.
“Do you have a favorite superhero?” I ask softly, guessing the answer will be the same as the symbol sewn across his little chest.
He looks to his mother and then back to me, his fingers tugging at his sleeves.
“Mark Webster, because he’s real, not fake like the comics,” he says, then smiles up at his mother. She brings a shaking hand to her mouth and nods.
“Your son..,” she breaks off, tears glistening in her eyes. One manages to sneak down her cheek.
The boy leans against her arm.“Mom?” he asks uncertainly. “Mom, don’t cry.” But she only shakes her head as he crawls into her lap and wraps his arms around her neck. Then I’m crying too.
You didn’t think twice about checking that box, did you? You saved his life, this little boy in his
mother’s arms. And he isn’t the only one.
You have always been my little superhero. Now, you are theirs too.
* * *
One donor can save up to eight lives, and as a tissue donor, you can save and heal up to 75 more people. Every day 22 people die waiting for a transplant, and the waiting list only grows each day. No one is too young to sign up to be an organ donor. As a teenager you have the power to save lives. While 95% of adults support organ donations, 52% have not signed up to be an organ donor. It is so easy to save a life--please don’t be a part of that 52%. Go to https://www.donatelife.net/register/ to save lives.
"Organ Donation Statistics." Organdonar.gov. HRSA, 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html#glance>.
"Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Statistics." Donate Life America. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <https://www.donatelife.net/>.