Like Meeting Old Friends for the First Time


For as long as I can remember, I choose to view the experiences of my life through a lens that illuminates the amazing grace of the God who restores; the God who will redeem the broken pieces of my life for His glory! It is this personal belief that allows me to move toward experiencing peace with the loss of our sixteen year old son, Scott.

Part of my own journey as a bereaved mother is to share about my loss, and my pursuit of peace. The story I share of Scott’s death always involves two families; neither of whom would ever forget the winter of 1996. (If you are not familiar with the story, click on the following link to read it on my blog, Redeeming the Future.)

The story of these two families is an account of profound grief and overwhelming joy. It is a story I never dreamed I would be cast in; never imagined being played out in my life.

Now almost twenty years later, God, in His providence, is changing the story. Well, not exactly changing it. He is writing a new chapter; one that only He could author as it is filled with his amazing grace and promise of restoration.

Inspired this summer by a news story about the first hand transplant ever performed on a child, I felt led again to search for the “other” family in my twenty-year-old story. Although they were an integral part of my story, I had never met them. I admit that I searched often to find them since Scott’s death. Now, inspired again by the story of donation, I pulled up electronic copies of newspaper articles from 1996 I had stored in a file on my computer. I enlisted the help of friends on social media. My searching at length over the years always ended in frustration and failure. But this time was different.

I was filled with anxiety as I thought about how best to contact this individual through social media. How do you compose a private message to ask someone if she may be the person who received your son’s liver? She was 13 years old in 1996; she would be about 33 years old now. I wrestled with the wording for a couple of hours, forming an introduction, sharing how the gift of organ donation added value to our loss, and then asking “the” question. The stress of choosing the correct words, of not pushing too hard, almost made me back out. Even after composing the message, I waited about twenty more minutes before pushing SEND.

As I was turning off my phone at bedtime for the night, I literally began to shake. There was a reply; an answer we had waited almost twenty years to receive.

Hi Bonnie and Tony, I am the Jennifer Chang you were looking for. Because of your son, I was given a second chance in life and I am eternally grateful. I would love to share my story with you.”

Making the decision to donate Scott’s organs was not an easy one for me, on several levels. It required us to agree with the determination of two neurologists that Scott was brain dead. (Brain death is hideous.) It required us to leave a son who was kept alive by machines. It required us to know that the surgeons would “harvest” (their word) parts of his strong, soccer playing, mountain biking, beautiful body, before “pulling the plug”.

We knew the importance of organ donation and its ability to save lives. We made the decision to become a donor family primarily to add value to our loss; to know that Scott’s death was not in vain in this physical world.

What a privilege to witness God’s grace at work in the past few weeks since I sent that first message on social media. Tony and I have traveled to Berkeley to have lunch with the three siblings who had been in critical condition in 1996. We heard them share about this life changing event from their family’s vantage point. We were blessed to answer their questions ~ what was his name, how did he die, how old was he, does he have siblings, and what was he like?

It became quite clear that although our families had never met, we were indeed an integral part in each other’s lives. So much so, that God’s grace continues to bring us together. Jennifer’s parents flew into San Francisco from Taiwan. We look forward to welcoming them into our home tomorrow.

A friend asked me if I was nervous about meeting them. Strangely, I am not. They have been a part of my life for almost 20 years. I feel a sense of joy as we are privileged to see God’s redemptive power over loss.

Seriously, it is like I am meeting old friends for the first time.