Today is dedicated to Molly as I wish my best friend a happy twenty-seventh birthday.
It brings me back to her thirteenth birthday, which perfectly timed with the release of the first Harry Potter film. We were huge fans of the books and loved to dress up with our make-believe wands and parents’ bathrobes, run around on broomsticks, and Sort my little sister in Slytherin so she couldn’t play with us Gryffindors. We had been counting down the days until the first movie came out and we needed to arrive hours before the theatre showing time to get a good spot in line. While one of our chaperons kept our place in line, we ventured over to the nearby Dave & Buster’s to play games because we were so antsy with anticipation. Once the movie began, we cheered along with everyone else in the theatre at all the right spots and she later joked that it was the best birthday present the world could have given her.
Then there was her Sweet Sixteen. Her mom had a surprise planned for us on her birthday and I was expected to be picked up from my house in the morning. Well, Molly arrived in a white limousine with her head sticking out the sunroof, squealing with excitement and shouting “I know!!” in response to my dumbfounded expression. The entire day turned out to be a scavenger hunt. Our limo driver (a friend of her mom’s) gave her an envelope with a Target gift card and a note stating it was to be used to pick out a CD. We attended Green Day’s concert a few days prior, so of course we blared the American Idiot album for the rest of the day. We went to the department store where makeup artists were waiting for us, and we got makeovers and gift cards to buy mascara. We were treated to lunch at her favorite restaurant. And so the day went on, making various stops around town, being presented with gift cards, sometimes having to decipher the scavenger hunt notes, drinking soda pop in fancy limousine glassware, and singing “I want to be an American Idiot!” out the sunroof. It was such an awesome day.
Molly should be celebrating her twenty-seventh birthday today in her favorite city, Los Angeles, alongside her husband, Corey. But she’s not here with us anymore… and there are no words for this indescribable grief. She was released from her broken body on June 4, 2013 in the loving arms of her husband whom she married three days before. Now she celebrates her birthday dancing with angels, pain-free and finally healthy.
I never viewed Molly as sick. I remember when I was about ten or so, and Molly was really ill in the hospital. My parents sat me down and explained that she might die and I should prepare myself for that possibility. How does a ten-year-old comprehend that about her best friend, when I always saw her health issues as just a technical difficulty? Once when we were preteens, we got into a huge argument because we were each so jealous of the other’s life. I screamed at her that she had horses and wealth, while she retorted that she had a disease and could never live a life like I could. I remember being so taken aback because I simply never thought of her and disease being in the same sentence. Sure, she had a night pump that provided her with most of her nutrition and she accidentally puked on me during several sleepovers, but she was my best friend and I never considered her as a sick individual.
It is because she did not let her illness get in the way of her life. She had so much passion for living, incredible strength to push through it all with a smile on her face, and a sincere sense of purpose that blows me away.
Molly was born with a rare form of Hirschsprung’s Disease, which at the time had only been diagnosed in three people worldwide. She spent her childhood in and out of hospitals, and by 2006 she needed a small bowel transplant. This was followed by a kidney transplant donated by her mother in 2007. Afterward, she was the healthiest she had even been in her life and she moved to Los Angeles at age nineteen to pursue a film degree. However, several years later she was required to move to Omaha, Nebraska where she could be given the best possible treatment for her deteriorating health at University of Nebraska Medical Center. Ultimately, she needed a four-organ transplant from a single deceased donor in order to survive. She waited 228 days for the multi-visceral transplant… until her body was simply too weak to continue fighting.
(This brief description does not do Molly justice, but it isn’t what I want today’s focus to be. If you want to learn Molly’s full story, please go to the Molly Pearce-Eaker Foundation website.)
A four-organ transplant. None of us had ever heard of such a possibility, but Molly persevered through the impossible on countless occasions that it seemed natural she would survive the biggest struggle of all.
Molly dedicated the last several years of her life to spreading organ donor awareness, collaborating with Donate Life and appearing on multiple news channels and radio stations. She received overwhelming support nationwide. So, in honor of my best friend, today I am not going to focus on forming written words to express this grief, or stamp my foot screaming that it isn’t fair for someone with so much life in her to leave this earth so soon. We know that already.
I want us to turn our attention to Donate Life, as Molly would have wanted us to. Her husband and several of us have worked hard to continue her legacy by promoting organ donation and educating others about its importance.
At this very moment, 122,547 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant (according to Unos).
Think about it. Over 122,000 people desperately need an organ transplant for survival. We take the miracle of the human body for granted–I know I’m guilty of it. But if something were to happen to you, think about how many lives you could save because of your healthy organs. As Corey stated in this article, “Realize you can’t take your organs with you after you die. There’s nothing you can do. If you can save up to eight people, why not?”
None of us want to think about our own deaths. It is a daunting, uncomfortable, frightening subject that we tend to gloss over. We don’t think much of it when the irksome DMV employee asks us if we want to check the “Yes” box to become an organ donor. Molly confided how much she hated needing an individual to die in order for her to live. Yes, it certainly isn’t the ideal situation… but it is a worthwhile method of recycling the human body. It will save up to eight other lives, and they can move on to live countless more years surrounded by their families and loved ones.
While journeying on Molly’s Organ Trail, we stopped in Omaha at the University of Nebraska Medical Center where Molly lived the last year of her life. It was heartbreaking to sit in at the transplant group therapy where Molly had been a contributing participant. I met incredible people who struggled each and every day as they waited for their transplants. They are so strong, as are their families as they hold onto survival. Their individual stories still bring tears to my eyes.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of becoming an organ donor. It does not matter what your religious beliefs are, or how fearful you are of death, or whether you have a personal story linked to organ donation. I sincerely believe it is our responsibility as human beings to continue helping others after we leave this earth.
Please take just a moment to register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor here. It is so simple and can save multiple lives.
Molly, not a day goes by without missing you so much it hurts. I feel so blessed to have shared our childhoods inseparably growing up together. You have been my sister, my teacher, my partner in crime, my best friend I have ever had. We let our imaginations run wild each and every day, whether we were exploring the outdoors or sitting side-by-side at our computers. We always motivated one another to be the best we could be, whatever our ambition. You introduced me to my greatest passion, horseback riding, and we were each other’s constant companion with the horses as we spent every day, every month, every year at the ranch. You have touched so many lives and helped so many people find strength from your incredible example.
Thank you for simply being you.
Read more about Molly and her journey: