As the title suggests it was an emotional but enjoyable weekend, full of moving stories and inspirational people.
Firstly... I survived the train journey, YAY! I don't know what I was worrying about, in fact I quite enjoyed it. I just sat and read a magazine and the time flew by! I was met at the station by Aunty P's Partner and Daughter and then it was straight to the Donor Family Network Gathering at Tally Ho sports centre. It was a lovely venue, with a kind of conference hall, there were display boards with the pictures and names of donors, the memorial quilts, a stand to encourage peope to become organ donors and a sales stand for the DFN. I met up with familiar faces, Aunty P of course, Sarah Milne, Oli, and Lynne from Donor Day!
There were various workshops throughout the day, people sharing stories, childrens crafts and the Donor Co-ordinator workshop, which was interesting to listen to. The recipients workshop was when the emotions started, I kicked off by reading the Gift of Life poem (which I have bloggged about before) Oli Lewington - Chairman of Live Life Then Give Life gave an amazing talk (as usual) ending on a very emotional note which set lots of people off! Sarah Milne gave a talk about William and his transplant journey and then a heart and two liver recipients spoke very movingly about their journeys too which started the tears for me!
The most emotional part of the day for me (and probably everyone there) was the ceremony of recognition where each donor family who wanted one received a certificate of recognition in memory of their loved one... there was lovely music being played in the background, the names of the donors were read out and as their pictures appeared on the screen. I felt so privileged to to be in a room full of such courageous and inspirational people, I didn't expect to get so emotional. Each family were also given an angel plaque with a small verse on it. We were all then given the option to write on bio-degradable tags a message of remembrance... I thanked my donor for my precious gift of life in my own words, and then all the tags were placed in a flower pot and a rose planted in remembrance of Donors... it was lovely and really symbolic. After which we the recipients were presented with our Angels which was really thoughtful.
After the whole thing was over some people stayed behind for the Donor Family Network Annual General Meeting, to which everyone was invited to. We were invited to share our thoughts and ideas. We then tidied up and headed back to Aunty P's house for an ice-lolly and relax before going out to a lovely Italian restaurant for tea with other people from the day, which I was treated to! :)
It was a late night and we all went straight to bed when we got in. I had a lazy start this morning and then I treated Aunty P, Sarah and the kids to some Bacon butties for lunch in a cafe called Molly's Yum! We then headed over to St Margaret's Church in Great Barr where I was met by my mum and dad who had traveled down for the precious gift service. It was a lovely service and again emotional, me and Sarah were invited with our families to light some candles, the main larger candle was lit by a Donor family (a lady who's husband had donated his organs) we then took a taper a lit it from that candle to light the smaller ones to represent the organs, the larger candle was then put out to symbolise the donors life ending. Me and Will's lit a candle together which was lovely, Hope, Ellie, my Mum, Dad and Sarah also lit candles.
Various readings and poems took place, then Sarah did her address which was beautifully written and really well presented. Then it was my turn! I couldn't even start as I was so emtional from hearing all the readings and Sarah's address! Aunty P had to start and then I took over after I had gained a bit of composure, although she did have to chip in now and again! I think what I was also really aware of was the audience, I had met some of them the day before, seen pictures of their loved ones that had given the gift of life and I almost felt guilty that I was there telling them how great my life was knowing that they had lost someone close to them. Many of them did however come up to me the day before and afterwards to say what a great speech it was and how they felt comforted in seeing and hearing from recipients and how well they were doing. Again we were invited to write messages to put in the box near the altar, my mum and dad wrote their thoughts down too.
I only took a few pictures over the weekend, as I spent lots of time talking to people rather than taking pictures, the ones I did take I will put up tomorrow.
I think I am all cried out now... I don't think anyone could have gone through this weekend without shedding at least one tear. I was made to feel so welcome, its like the club that you don't want to be part of, but once you are you are in, you are in it for life. It was so great to meet the inspirational people all joined by one thing in common. Its such a close nit community, each of the families had to make a courageous decision to donate their loved ones organs and without people like them I certainly wouldn't be leading the life I am now and many of my friends wouldn't even be hear today.
So thank you to the special people that are donors and their amazing families.