I’m grateful to be a Catholic woman from El Salvador who was destined to form her family with an Indonesian man who was raised in a Muslim culture. Through our children’s schools, we developed lifelong friendships with a diverse group of folk—refugees from Laos or from Poland, or Americans from various ethnicities, cultures and races. Our extended family continues to grow through the marriages of our two daughters. The older one married a Jewish American with family in Europe and Israel. The younger one is exploring her husband’s heritage in New Zealand. But when contemplating our spiritual family, I have to think of our special relationship with Sharon, a Chinese American woman with a fascinating testimonial to share.
Our history with Sharon began on Mother’s Day, 1993. My husband John was making his way home after taking an emergency leave from work on a ship that had just left Japan. He was flying home to join me to make the most agonizing decision of our lives. Our beloved 13 year-old son Nick was on life support after a fatal bicycle accident. The doctors’ only suggestion was for Nick to donate his vital organs.
When I had first arrived at the hospital the day before, the social worker had asked for the name of a priest. I automatically thought of Father Ignatius who gave Nick his first Holy Communion. Nick had told me that the day he first received Communion was the happiest day of his life. Fr. Ignatius was called to give Nick his last rites. But my mind was focused on a recovery. Later, seeing the unrealistic expectation in my eyes, Fr. Ignatius said, “You know that Nick is now with God.”
I refused to give up hope and asked for prayers. Filled with compassion, Fr. Ignatius took my hands and prayed, “Jesus, you raised Lazarus from the dead …” His words pierced my heart like a sword. Immediately, I hurt with the realization that we were praying for Nick’s resurrection from the dead.
“Nick would want to do the right thing,” my husband told me after we met with a panel of 8-10 doctors. The medical group had left the room, and John had asked a nurse to turn off the lights. Alone, we held each other in the dark. “Donating Nick’s organs will save lives,” he continued. “Saving lives is the right thing to do.” I finally resigned myself and signed to donate Nick’s vital organs.
A month later we received a letter from the Donor Network telling us that Nick’s donations had saved three lives. Two recipients were living out of state, but one was staying in our city. “I wish we could meet her,” my husband stated. “I just want to be able to give her a hug.”
John eventually got his wish. Through many coincidences that I call ‘God-incidences,’ Nick’s liver recipient came to realize that we were her anonymous donor family. Fearing that an emotional meeting would negatively affect her delicate condition, her doctor advised against her approaching us. But Sharon decided that to fully accept Nick’s donation, she had to accept his family. And now, 25 years later she is still giving thanks for Nick’s gift of life. Plus, she is honoring a quarter of a century celebrating weddings, baptisms and other events with a new family.
Our special relationship with Sharon has made me aware why attending church is so important. There, I have developed spiritual bonds with priests from Holland, Fiji, Ireland, Nigeria and more places. Our fellow parishioners come from many countries including Guyana, Italy, Kenya, Philippines, Tanzania and Vietnam. From all the corners of the world, we gather together daily at the Supper of the Lord to be in communion with all the angels and saints, including our own saint Nicky.
Through my personal interreligious family, and through our multinational church community, I have come to see that within God’s celestial kingdom, there are no religious or political boundaries. Through our friendship with Sharon, I know that not even death can separate the spiritual unit. God’s infinite love transcends all imaginable obstacles. So let us gather daily as one mystical family with Our Heavenly Father. Let us live joyfully together with all our loved ones here on earth, and with the ones in heaven.