This one is going to be a little hard to top! We gathered Monday with many others to remember Nora at Virginia Blood Services. What a special evening! There were many things about it that made it extra memorable.
When we arrived I noticed that they had a sign out front and that the place looked extra orange inside. As we got closer, I could see a lot of their staff looking at the windows watching us approach and that they had clearly decided to go the extra mile in preparing for us. There were orange balloons and streamers and t-shirts and many of the staff were wearing orange. If I hadn't been ushering kids in with my hands full of stuff to set up, I think I would have just stopped and cried right there in the parking lot. I felt overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness and how excited they seemed to join in the celebration.
The sign out front noted "in memory of Nora Lynne" but also mentioned "the Gratitude Pool." I didn't really understand what that meant but didn't have time to think too deeply about it either. It wasn't long before the first donors arrived and things got crazy from there until the end - but a good kind of crazy. It was our largest turn out by far and with so many people near and dear to us. In the end we had 23 successful blood/platelet donations. A few folks joined who had never donated before, which is always a bonus. And we had lots of potential future donors (kids) around and under foot. I tried to count up everyone that was there and think I am right at 56, with about 15 of those being little people!
That does not count their amazing staff and also one platelet donor who was giving when we got there. I thought it was amazing that she happened to be also wearing orange. I found out later that it was not a coincidence; the staff had called her to tip her off to the event and told her she could keep her appointment but should wear orange. She did, and also brought bright orange cupcakes to donate to the tables laden with orange snacks. So so sweet!
So we had donors/contributors of all kinds. We had blood and platelet donors, snack donors, cuteness contributions in abundance, not to mention hugs and cheerleading contributions. It was all a part of what made it a meaningful few hours. Shortly after we arrived and before things got fully rolling, I was called over to Jason who was preparing to give platelets. A representative from their Charlottesville headquarters had joined for the evening, and as it turns out he was there to present to us a plaque. That is when I learned what "the Gratitude Pool" was. So it seems that Jason and the VBS staff had been in cahoots for some time now to surprise me. VBS had recently started this program and our group was the first to meet some kind of threshold of giving. So, in essence, "the Gratitude Pool" is a team of donors that are organized around the memory of Nora Lynne. That is a sweet thing!
What they presented to us is an "excellence in community partnership volunteer achievement award." At the time, I really didn't have an extra second to reflect on it all. What struck me the most was that Jason had successfully kept such a surprise from me for months! And then the look on the staff faces, who seemed so excited to have pulled it off and eager to unveil the plans. And then touched that they had thought of our group as the one they really wanted to see come together for this. That all meant so very much to me!
In the hours and days following, as I always do, I've stewed a bit more on the whole thing. I can never seem to let things just be simple! I started having musings about what the actual purpose was of this "team of donors" and if somehow this was going to shift the focus of these events in a way that would impact their meaning and significance for me/us. I didn't want that!
Giving blood stems from a very individual desire to do something I thought I could not do and to do that to honor Nora, and the things her life taught me. For awhile it was just something Jason and I would do together and over time it became very meaningful. It then became a ritual we wanted to broaden and invite others to join us in. And the rest is history. I want the goal of our times to remain gathering to remember Nora and honor her by giving to others. That is why we keep doing the blood drives 2x a year. And, honestly, there is an aspect of it all that is kind of selfish. For me, it feels really important to have our friends and family remember that Nora is part of our family. As time goes on, there are less opportunities where she naturally comes up in conversation or where people mention her. This is a very clear and easy way to keep that in front of others and I like that. So if we can do good for others while remembering her and asking others to remember her with us, all the better.
I do not, however, want to start amassing a collection of VBS awards. For our regular blog readers, you are familiar with my aversion to accumulating "stuff" and our recent successful deep clean/purge! I also find that "prizes" and even often being paid for something can sometimes cheapen the whole thing for me. It's almost like trying to put a tangible value on something that is very intangible messes it up. Bear with me for a tiny soapbox moment: I get so annoyed at "do good" organizations (environmental ones are right up there on my list) that send you mailing upon mailing highlighting what you can get if you give x amount of dollars. It's not their fault - they are clearly doing what works. I'm frustrated that as a culture and society, we need to be rewarded for caring for the environment or doing what needs to be done to make the world a more just and equitable place for all... Okay, stepping down now!
All that to say that after a helpful email exchange with some of their staff, I feel like we are all clear on the purpose and goal of our events, so onward we go! Mark your calendars now for October 30th, Nora's 11th birthday. Same time, same place!
I don't want to end without saying how much it means to me to have so many children at these events. This was an especially kid-filled event and I loved it. From a few months old all the way up to Kali at 14 (and we realized that as early as next fall 2019, Kali would be eligible to join as a donor!!). For the most part they seemed to have a grand time coloring, eating snacks, and watching what was happening. There were a few moments of skepticism when both parents headed off to check in/donate, but then other kids stepped up to entertain and console. It was very cute! The most touching moment for me is the one picture above when I'm donating. Terah came over to watch and was doing fine and talking to me until the moment when I got stuck. And then she dissolved into tears. It took some concentrated effort to convince her that I had asked them to do it, that I was ok, that I was not hurting badly, and that this was all in the plan. She was not at all sure about it. As you can see here, though, for the most part she had a grand time!!
I will just close by saying a big THANK YOU to all who joined us! For those that had never joined us before (but hopefully will again in the future) and for our faithful regulars who have hardly missed a blood drive. To those that never met Nora but have gotten to know her through us and to those who knew her intimately well. Thanks for sharing memories with us, for honoring Nora with us and for the many ways you have walked with us and supported us on this journey of living and loving and losing. There has been loss and grief and there has also been a lot of joy and celebration. Our lives are richer having had Nora with us and also richer because of the ways others have gathered around us to honor her life in an ongoing way. The Gratitude Pool...it's a good name!