I Gave Away Paul’s Eyes

I’m trying to wrap my head around the reason I’m sitting here typing through tears as I cry like a baby. Over the past four months since Paul died, I’ve spent a fair bit of time wracked in misery and despair.

But this is different. This is a sense of joy that I never expected. This is an overwhelming elation that I’m finding difficult to describe. But I’ll try.

In the midst of the chaos in the emergency room that sad Monday the week before Christmas, I asked the doctor if they could use any of Paul’s organs. I was told, no, they had been trying to revive him too long for them to be viable. It’s not just organs, though, I was told. There are many soft tissues that can be used as well. Would I agree to that?

Of course. No doubt. Absolutely.

A day or two later, after an extensive phone interview with the Eye Bank of Canada, I was told that they were able to take Paul’s eyes. They weren’t sure if they would be able to use them for transplant or research, and asked if I would agree to both options.

Paul was a teacher. Would it not be fitting for him to keep teaching, even now?


I felt happy with the decision and hung up with the understanding that at some point they would let me know what had happened.

I just received a letter from the Eye Bank of Canada. They expressed their condolences on Paul’s passing and their appreciation over his gift. Very sincere. And then:

“Although it is difficult to express our immense appreciation for your humanitarian action, we would now like to let you know the positive result of your husband’s eye donation which you permitted. A few days after your husband passed away, his eyes were used in two sight-restoring transplants.”

Whatever has been holding me upright for four months just let go. I’ve been crying for hours. These last few days have been so hard. And then this shows up.

Paul was pure energy. He was enthusiasm, and hope. Love and laughter. A never-ending smile that lit up his face. Friend to all. Role-model, mentor, teacher. Father, son, husband, friend, brother. For so many, the world is a darker place without him.

But to think, that right now, this very minute, somewhere, someone  – no, two someones! – is seeing the world through his eyes is something so overwhelming, so fitting, so magical. How many times did I watch Paul overflow with excitement over any one of life’s many joys and think, “the world would be a better place if we all saw it like Paul does?”

“‘Tis better to give than to receive’ has just been taken up to a whole new level!

I have the option of possibly connecting with the two people who received some pretty fantastic Christmas presents. Truthfully, if they really did want to meet me, I’d certainly be okay with that.

But I think, for now, I’m happy not knowing who they are, or anything about them. There are so many scenarios running through my head. I’m imagining someone seeing his baby for the first time. Seeing the stars in the sky. Reading! Watching a baseball game. Winking at a loved one. And every new idea that pops into my head starts the tears anew.

Tears of joy. Pride. Love. Acceptance. Joy.

For now, I will walk down the street and wonder forever, if the person looking back at me through dark brown twinkling eyes could be a glimpse of Paul, still alive, still happy, still with us. And somehow, there’s a spark of hope that comes with that. Hope for I don’t know what. But it sure feels wonderful!

We often hear about the gratitude of the recipients and their families for the loved ones of the lost donor. But I’ve never heard of the impact the donation has on the decision maker. How astonishing to find that the result of that one conversation could reflect back on me, I’m sure, as much as it has on the people who received Paul’s eyes. If I can somehow manage to convey at all, the utter peace I feel right now, and thereby convince one other person to give the gift of donation, I will consider today a resounding success!!

17 thoughts on “I Gave Away Paul’s Eyes

    • I really appreciate your saying so, Carolyn. It means a lot to hear comments like this when you’re making all kinds of decisions for which you are completely unprepared!


  1. Alex I really enjoyed reading this:) I am so glad to see mr brown doing what he does best. I can’t help but think of how proud he is of you and the children and I hope as the days go by it gets a little easier for you guys because that’s what he would want for you:) thank you for posting about the highschool in memory of him as well. If I can do anything I am definitely willing to contribute wherever I can.

    Jenna cole


  2. Alex, if these two recipients see what Paul did then they are getting the greatest gift, the gift of love, as Paul loved everyone


  3. What a joy! I love the way you have written your feelings for us to be a part of. I know people on both sides of the story…we donated many organs and tissues from my niece when she passed away and my friend is a recent recipient of a heart transplant…Paul would have loved what you have done… too bad you couldn’t share that smile of his too!


  4. Absolutely the best story ever!!!!! It brought tears to my eyes. I sure hope whomever has Paul’s eyes sees life as he did. What a beautiful thing you have done!!!!! Love Jackie VanderPol


  5. I think this is simply amazing.giving someone the gift of sight is truly a miracle! I first met Paul when we were in youth group at church n then was lucky enough to go to MacNab with him. We lost touch for years but thank god for Facebook as we reconnected here. Then my best friends son had him as an teacher at MacNab for the past couple of years n when they had any type of outing I got to see him again. I think of Paul often n how he told me about his family n I told him about mine. Life is too short and I often think about when I go past the places that we used to frequent either thru school or church. I hope that as time goes on that the pain that you are feeling eases for you n your children. Paul was one happy go lucky man n his legacy will live on in his children n now those who will see the world thru his eyes. Rest in peace Paul n thank you for being my friend.


  6. Hi: We’ve never met but I wanted to comment. Over 17 years ago, my husband died suddenly. He too was unable to donate organs because of the nature of his death. He too, donated his corneas, and bone marrow. I have the letter I received from the eye bank which acknowledged Brian’s donation and his contribution towards sight for two strangers. That is a long time ago now – he was just 38. I also knew donation was what Brian would have wanted. I’m so sorry you are on this very difficult journey. Knowing what your husband’s wishes would be and how he would advise you as you move forward is truly comforting. I wish you the best.


  7. Pingback: A Must Read | onward & upward

  8. Alex….what an amazing testimony to Paul as you have so eloquently written. I have been thinking of Paul over the last little while and I continue to remember what he always said “Never let the bad people win” Seeing the world through Paul’s eyes would be the most amazing thing as he had seen many places and experience some amazing times. Continually praying for you and the family. May you all continue to celebrate Paul each day knowing that he continues to make a difference through you all….Rest Easy Paul….missing you lots…..you were truly a blessing to me.


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