Do rites and ceremonies matter? In our increasingly casual age, many might say no.
Pomp and circumstance, they could argue, only consume time and energy that could be used for more productive work. Yet I’d urge them to reconsider, particularly when it comes to the ceremonies surrounding death.
There’s a reason why police forces and the armed forces solemnize the passing of their members with full processionals. It reminds us of their sacrifice, of the importance of their lives and how their deaths have helped us all.
That’s why I’m glad to see such military honors hitting the field of medicine, particularly when it comes to those whose deaths provide the gift of life to others. Yahoo Lifestyle reported how the staff of Mercy West Hospital of Cincinnati, Ohio, organized an honor walk for an organ donor.
On June 19, Cletus Schnieders III was declared brain dead. There were 156 people waiting for a liver transplant at that time, and precisely one of them was a perfect match for the organ.
Yet the end of Schnieders’ life didn’t go unmarked. Family, friends, and medical professional lined the hospital’s halls for a ceremony called the honor walk, with staff paying their respects as his body passed by them.
Schnieder’s family shared this breath taking photo w/ me. This was his Honor Walk. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when friends, family, staff & community members line the halls as your body makes its way to give the gift of life. It is no secret he was loved pic.twitter.com/rAz03maaCN
— Alexis Rogers (@AlexisWLWT) July 18, 2018
The man who received Schnieders’ liver also offered his own sympathy and proclaimed his gratitude. John Mock said, “I wanted to thank this family for saving my life — I would be dead without them — and offer my condolences.”
Something similar happened on August 22 at University of Vermont Medical Center. The hospital conducted its very first honor walk for one Libby D’Avignon, who had just passed away.
In addition to lining the halls with witnesses, the hospital also raised a flag to honor Libby’s sacrifice. She had donated her heart, kidneys, and lungs.
Jennifer DeMaroney, the Donor Family Services Coordinator at the hospital, said that her sacrifice was much needed. “Four people she doesn’t know got the call that their lives were going to be saved by a stranger,” she stated.
“While I’ll miss Libby forever, there really isn’t any sadness because she got what she wanted in the end, things went the way she would have liked them to go,” her husband, Robb D’Avignon, told WVNY. “She has inspired people to go check that box and become a donor.”
On September 27, medical workers gathered for something they called a Walk of Respect at St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center in Meridian, Idaho.
Fox News shared video released by the hospital that showed nurses in scrubs and people in street clothes silently standing as a loaded hospital bed passes by them. Hardly anyone uttered a peep.
The sound that most resounded in the hushed halls was clanking of the bed, the beeping of diagnostic machines, and the whoosh of a ventilator as the 53-year-old man was moved from the ICU to the operating room where he would be taken off life support. Some nurses visible fought back tears.
Family members marched behind the bed, and as they passed, someone offered a quiet, “Thank you.” It’s a powerful moment forever digitally captured.
We hear a lot about the hundreds of thousands of people who need new organs. But these ceremonies remind us that we need to hear just as much about those who provide them.
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