Mysterious Ways: Giving Back for John

A winged messenger assured a blood donor that her belated brother appreciated her efforts.

Posted in , May 2, 2013

A flying bee against a blue sky streaked with wispy clouds

“IM DONOR?” said the woman behind the desk at the DMV, reading the letters from my freshly minted vanity plate. “That’s an interesting phrase. Do you mind if I ask why you chose it?”

Her question stirred up so many emotions in me. Even seven years after my beloved brother’s death, it was still hard for me to talk about. But I took a deep breath and told the woman my story.

I was the youngest of six children. My brother John was the one who looked out for me the most. And I looked up to him. He was my hero—devout, active in his church, honest, kind and wise. To me, he was fearless: He started beekeeping in high school, and it became his lifelong avocation.

I couldn’t imagine getting anywhere near those bees without fleeing in terror. It was the only thing my brother did that scared me.

Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, John got sick. He was diagnosed with lymphoma. I was afraid for him, but John remained the brother I’d always known—even in the face of death.

In 2000, he needed a bone-marrow transplant. I was the only one in my family to be a perfect match. I saw it as my chance to pay him back for all he had given me. I hoped and prayed the procedure would cure him. It couldn’t, but it did add five more years to his life.

Ever since my brother’s death, I’d donated blood every eight weeks in his honor. The idea for the license plate came to me in a dream. I hoped that when people saw it, maybe they’d be stirred to donate, whether it was blood, bone marrow or organs. I wanted to remind people they had the power to save lives.

“I think your brother would approve,” the woman at the DMV said as I left.

I climbed into my car, drove home and pulled into my driveway. What was that noise? Bzzzzz. A bee, trapped against the window. And yet I wasn’t afraid. Not at all.

I guess John does approve. I lowered the window and watched the bee fly out, up and away, disappearing into the clear blue sky.


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