Tears came to my Dad’s eyes as he answered the phone that Saturday morning. Only one person would be calling at that time.
“Hello, Mr. Sinsabaugh,” the perky voice started, “How would you like a new kidney today?”
“Very much, “the words got stuck by the lump in his throat. ” That would be better than watching the game.”
As I happily watched U of M beat my alma mater in a hospital waiting room in Grand Rapids, my Dad got a new lease on life.
But while we were shedding tears of joy in his recovery room, there was another family also crying. They got a phone call, too. A shitty one, from the state police, informing them that their son was killed crossing Belt Line Road in Grand Rapids. He was a freshmen at one of the only Dutch Reformed colleges in the country. After the game, the local news was revealed how he was donating his organs.
“Hey, mom,” I said while pointing to the TV, “I think this is the kid who gave Dad his kidney.”
“Bless their hearts,” she replied.
I wanted to thank the family but couldn’t due to laws back then about those things. And, even if I did, I’m wasn’t sure what to say. Hallmark doesn’t make a card that reads, “thanks for your son’s body parts”.
I also knew that Dutch Reform Christians don’t play around. Many are tulip or dairy farmers who want to tend their fields after church even though it’s supposed to be a day of rest. So many clever moms hide their family members’ pants, forcing them to lounge around in their skivvies and not break the Dutch Sabbath.
Another good reason to always wear nice underwear.
Fast forward five years. I’m speaking to a youth group in southern California. It’s not the glitz and glam of Hollywood but a dairy town of the middle of nowhere. I mean, one of those towns with more cows than people. Coincidentally, many of the farmers were Dutch dairy farmers and bible thumping, teet-squeezing members of the Reformed Church.
So during dinner with the church staff, the story of my dad came up. “So you’ve heard of Grand Rapids?” I asked.
The pastor dropped his fork…then I dropped mine.
“A lotta families around here send their kids to school there,” he started, “and that boy who was killed on Beltline? That was my wife’s nephew. ”
I was given the rare opportunity to thank that boy’s family.
My dad lived about another five years with that Bible thumping kidney, but a day didn’t go by when he wasn’t thankful for that boy’s willingness to donate his organs.
A friend recently lost her sons. Yes, plural. While she can not get her boys back, she started an annual blood drive in their honor.
Every pint of blood you give could lead to a story like this, minus the part about not wearing pants on Sunday, unless you’re Dutch Reformed, too. If you are interested in giving blood, visit the RedCross.org.
Cheers to giving a Pint… and then some.