STORY: Randy H. Milgrom

  Patching Things Up

The Great Hall in the lower level of the Coffman Memorial is not an easy room to fill.
But at precisely 8:00 pm this evening it was filled to capacity – not just with bodies (though the seating status was strictly SRO), but with waves of pure emotion as well.

Every one of the small round tables was fully occupied as Maggie Coolican commenced the introductions by announcing her decision, with great regret, to step down as head coordinator of this event after having helped to found the tradition ten years ago. After welcoming the large gathering she also briefly explained its meaning: to provide an outlet for giving praise and thanks to those who have given their organs so that others’ lives might be saved or improved.

One by one – or sometimes in pairs or more – those who had created a patch presented it, along with a story about its significance, to a highly receptive audience. The patch was then ceremoniously pinned (and saved to be permanently sewed) to a blank quilt, which also served as the backdrop for a keepsake photo following the patch dedication.

Among those who presented a patch and provided a heartfelt explanation of it were:

  • A mother whose 12 year old was hit by a car but whose organ donations “saved or improved the lives of six other people.” The patch included a picture of the daughter wearing her favorite poodle skirt, the Girl Scout pledge – “which she lived by” – and fabric with a leopard print cut into the shape of a heart, since she was such an immense animal lover.
  • A mother who was the recipient of her own son’s tissues: “I have his bones in my back. A year ago I couldn’t walk and now I can walk because of my son.”
  • A mother who included a piece of her son’s clothing in her eight inch by eight each square patch.
  • An aunt whose niece died while sledding with her church school group. She read a portion of a poem she wove into her patch, and the crowd was spellbound.
  • A mother who explained that though she used to be annoyed that her teenaged son always seemed to have a cell phone stuck to his ear (usually talking to his girlfriend), a picture of him walking and talking was now one of her favorite images – and was thus included in the patch she dedicated to the quilt.
  • And two daughters (aged 11 and 14) whose father – a police officer – “died as a public servant in the line of duty, and also served at his death by giving the Gift of Life.” They made the patch with the assistance of their mother and grandmother and included in it a picture of their dad on his Harley and another while horseback riding. They also created small facsimiles of teddy bears “that provided comfort in times of need for holding onto something.” Their mother thanked the audience for its patience while listening to the younger daughter make the presentation “and for allowing us to continue to be [their father’s] daughter and [my husband’s] wife.”

On behalf of the National Donor Family Council, a gift – a large and stunning crystal vase with a beautiful butterfly etched into one of its sides – was presented to Maggie Coolican to thank her for her many years of work on these presentations and on the massive quilting undertaking as a whole.

It is said that when a loved one unexpectedly leaves one’s home, a butterfly makes a visit to soothe the loss and to comfort those who remain.

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Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:05:42 EST