Yesterday I completed the required training to become a volunteer with Donate Life Tennessee. As I talked to the woman leading the training, she said, “I know that you understand the importance of organ donation because of your connection with Emily, but I’m curious what made you decide to reach out about volunteering with us?” I probably rambled a bit, but essentially I told her that I just felt called to do it. I know it’s 100% something Emily would support, and it’s something I can do to give back.
More importantly, though, I feel like this is just one way for me to ensure that Emily’s spirit lives on. She was an incredibly selfless woman. Even on her hardest days, she was more than willing to help someone else or sacrifice her own needs for anyone if she thought it would help them.
Emily’s Heart of Gold
I think Emily is one of those people who was born to help others. She just had this natural instinct and internal drive that pushed her to offer anything she could to a person in need. I always found it incredible to see someone who was so willing to pay it forward, especially given all that she faced in her own life.
Even before we started dating, I knew all about Emily’s selflessness. She’d text me from the emergency room while she sat with another friend, or she’d answer messages and calls while we hung out together from people who needed a listening ear. I knew she was very active in the recovery community as well.
After we started dating, I learned the full extent of my love’s willingness to give. She’d often apologize for it, but I didn’t mind because I felt privileged to see her heart of gold in action.
Early on in our relationship, the romantic date night I had planned turned into me meeting her outside the emergency room at Centennial because a friend was having chest pain and other issues related to her underlying eating disorder. So, we improvised so we could still see each other: we sat outside the building and shared a cheeseburger and some fries while she waited for the hospital to admit her friend. She told me, “I don’t know why you put up with me — I probably help people too much.” I simply kissed her and told her I loved how much she cared about the world.
Another time, her ex-boyfriend called just as we walked out of our favorite Nashville bar (Lipstick Lounge) because his blood sugar was dangerously high and he couldn’t get anyone to answer their phones and drive him to the hospital. All she had to do was look at me, and I knew we were about to drive and pick him up.
Sometimes, she did things that put herself in danger, like the time she performed CPR on someone who was ejected from their car on I-440. Other times, she sacrificed sleep or time for her grad school assignments just because she felt compelled to travel halfway across the country with a friend so she could get the medical care she needed (twice).
Yet, regardless of what was required of her or the toll these selfless acts had, Emily was more than willing to do them. She just loved helping people and seeing them reach their full potential.
Continuing Her Legacy in My Own Way
During Emily’s funeral service, I made several promises to her directly. I also told everyone gathered there that they could use the pieces of Emily they have to keep her spirit alive even though her time here on this earth has ended. Personally, I think I can at least partially do this through performing my own selfless acts — like volunteering with Donate Life.
However, I don’t plan to just stop there. I am already a registered organ and tissue donor, but I think I would also like to start donating blood (it’ll be a good exposure). I also want to renew my CPR training so I can help people when needed, just like Emily did.
I’ll also continue doing things I’ve already been doing, too. I help with several ministries at our church that benefit the homeless in our community, and I will not be giving that up. I’ll also continue writing about topics that break down stigmas and help others along their journey.
Finally, I hope I can reach a place where I simply hear God’s call and feel in my heart when I should be helping someone out. It was a gift Emily absolutely had, and I’d love to continue that incredible legacy if I can. It may come in time.
Emily, thank you for always helping me and everyone else who crossed your path. Because of your selflessness, the world is already a better place.
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