By Heather Blair/OC Monitor Community Contributor
Short in stature, my Aunt Becky Hampton made up for her height with a personality that filled the room. A twinkle in her eye and elvish grin, her warmth drew you in like a magnet. Though sometimes quiet and reserved, those who knew her best were quick to listen when she spoke, for laughter often followed any comment she made.
She was an artist, musician, and ultimate crafter, using her hands to create beauty, yet her passion was teaching. From piano to Sunday school lessons to science experiments, teaching was her gift. Though with her talents, Becky could have done many things, she found her purpose in the school system as a teacher’s aide.
My aunt had a heart for all kids, but those with special needs held an even bigger spot. And it was in the sometimes thankless, often unglamorous, halls of a school she served for decades. No teacher is ever compensated enough, aides even less, but her payment came in the smiles of those children she loved as her own. Retiring from the profession, only to return the next season as a volunteer, Becky’s love for children was evident.
Her impact was visible, as students through the years came to pay respects at her funeral this past January. From towering frames, who proudly shared they were among her first school kiddos, to tiny ones who tiptoed to see inside the casket, the love she’d showered on them came pouring back in final goodbyes.
Yet her legacy will live on in those we may never get to meet.
Heart was one of the things Becky was most known for and, in the end, it was this organ that failed her. Breast cancer and a family history would cause too much damage to survive the major surgery she endured at the first of the year.
Walking into her hospital room, moments after the shocking news, I sat at her bedside wondering how to say goodbye to a woman who influenced my life so strongly. What seemed like seconds later, a phone was placed in my hands which gave me the opportunity to honor her fully.
A representative from Kentucky Organ Donation Affiliates, or KODA, was on the line.
Knowing my aunt’s wishes, with the help of my sister, I fulfilled her request to be a donor. Though her organs were not viable, she would share the gifts of her tissue and corneas to those in need.
Two people may someday have sight because of her. As many as eight burn victims could find healing through her donation. Up to fifty people may benefit from her donations as many as five years in the future. At this time we aren’t aware of the families who may have received her gifts – and we may never, but knowing she was able to share a lasting legacy has helped us in our loss.
Our family knows first-hand the gift of being an organ donor because it gave us more precious years with her daddy, my Grandpa Henry. As a kidney recipient, the extra time we were given with him was priceless. It moved many of us to make the lasting decision to be donors ourselves when the time comes.
I recall the first time I renewed my license, after Grandpa’s surgery, and signing the organ donor card with gladness. My husband and I have discussed our wishes. As a family, many of us have talked openly about our willingness to give of ourselves in this way. It was this knowledge that allowed me to share a part of our Aunt Becky without hesitation. We knew it was what she would have wanted. And I consider it a great privilege to have fulfilled this request for her.
While it was a difficult time, the staff at KODA could not have been kinder. The lady securing her donation was patient, empathetic, and shared sincere appreciation for the gift. Correspondence since then of her donor medal and updates have been unexpected blessings in the mail.
If you’ve never considered organ donation, think it over and talk with your family. Life changes in an instant and the shock of a loss is not the best time to make these decisions.
It has been said organ donation is the greatest gift anyone could ever give. Aunt Becky was a gift to all who knew her. Our prayers now is that she can be a gift to many who never got the chance.
April is National Donate Life Month. For more information visit donatelife.net.
Heather Blair is a Kentucky girl at heart, growing up in a small town she’ll never leave and has a love for backroads and bluegrass landscapes. She finds joy in the little things, like butterflies and farmers markets, friends and family gathered at the table and catching more fish than her hubby. Her best-selling novel is currently in her head but, in the meantime, she has been published online for over a decade.