It was a privilege to spend our Saturday morning cooking and serving brunch to the guests at the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia. The Gift of Life Family House serves as a "home away from home" for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable housing near the hospital.
This is our third year serving the guests as a special way to honor our own donor hero, Gavin, on his birthday. As you may know, we were able to donate both of Gavin's kidneys at the end of his life. It meant so much to us to be able to do that. I'll explain why later.
It was also the third year in a row that our friend, Claire, made this brunch a huge success! Claire owns a fabulous business in Paoli, PA called "HomeCooked." I have used her services more than once - for ourselves and for friends. She offers pre-made home cooked meals that you can order ahead or pick up last minute. She's an excellent cook and a wonderful person. She came with her husband, Paul, and her two sons, Ian and Dane.
We were also joined this year by my sister, Bean and niece, Shannon who were a huge help!
Hope is always thrilled to see "BEE!"
Granny was there, too, to help honor her Grandson. And to watch her Granddaughter be "helpful" in the kitchen.
Claire does an amazing job including the kids with the prep work. Brian and his buddy, Ian, were such hard workers making scones together...
...and drizzling them with icing when they were done.
I was so, so proud of Brian. Whenever he was given a job, he stepped right up and took it very seriously.
I'm also glad we can offer him opportunities to be altruistic. And there's no better way to start than doing something that is personal to him - and to our family.
In the down time, while the food was cooking, he sat with Ian and tried to teach him Minecraft! It was very cute to hear them giggling.
It's hard for us to believe it's been three years.
The first year was a blur - it was only five months after Gavin died and I was just a couple months away from delivering Hope. Last year, Hope was a baby. And this year we were "twinning" and she was running around opening every cabinet door.
I brought the sign that was hung on Gavin's hospital bed as he was wheeled into the operating room for the organ harvest. I wanted to convey a positive spirit to all the transplant patients and their families. It is a personal mission of mine to attempt to remove guilty feelings. I have noticed that many organ recipients have a hard time because... obviously someone has to die so they can live. But that is exactly why we chose to donate our precious son's organs. He had to die - and there was nothing we could do about THAT. But we could attempt to help someone live. We didn't chose to donate to "make his life have meaning." His life already had a LOT of meaning - another great reason to donate. Those kidneys came infused with positive energy and super powers.
It was a wonderful morning - delicious food - and we were surrounded by people we love. Helping others is, to me, one of the best ways I can honor Gavin. On his birthday, and every day.
Every year I make sure to implore you - beg you, even - to become an organ donor. And, just as important, have the conversation with your spouse and/or loved ones about what you would do if the unthinkable happened to one of your children. If you are not an organ donor because of fears, worries, religious reasons - or you just don't understand how it works - please read THIS post about all the myths and misconceptions. If you want to see frequently asked questions, including how to become a donor, click HERE.
It is always heartbreaking to see patients who are waiting for organs... especially if they're children!! Unfortunately, I think it's human nature to not think about things like this unless you're in it... or it's happening to someone you love... or it hits your family.
But guess what. I consider all of you to be family. So please take this message to heart. You can honor Gavin and celebrate his life by registering to become an organ donor and/or having that hard conversation. And if you are already a donor, you can do two things for us. Spread the word! Create a Facebook post about organ donation and feel free to talk about Gavin as a way to start the conversation! The more people that get the bug in their ear about donation... the better! You never, ever know... the next person on the transplant list may be someone you know.
And, if you're in the Philadelphia area consider volunteering your time, talent or dollars to the Gift of Life Family House. There are so many ways you can help! You could get a group together and be "Home Cook Heroes" like we were - brunch or dinner or baking - it's so fun! You could also have a "Wish List Drive" to collect much needed items to keep their kitchen pantry stocked - it would be an awesome event for Boy Scouts or Moms Groups or a class trip. Are you a retiree? They have so many things you could do. Do you have a bridge club or Mahjong group? Tennis club or ANY club? Get everyone together and make it a fun afternoon. You can even hit Chinatown afterward - and if you don't know where to go or what to order, contact me and I'll have Ed personally recommend things! (Right, Ed?) It will be an experience you will never forget... I promise. Click HERE to see all the volunteer opportunities at the Family House.
One last thing. Every year I also ask you to let me know that you're an organ donor - or that you became an organ donor because of Gavin's story. It means the world to me to see my blog comments and/or Facebook page flooded with "DONOR!" shout outs!
Today was a day of rest. It was "pajama day" in the Leong house.
I'll spare you the Mommy and Daddy PJ pics. You're welcome.