If ever there was a "Bucket List" kind of day, January 1, 2016 was one for me. It is hard to describe the feelings and thoughts that I had while riding atop the Donate Life Rose Parade Float, but I will try. First off, this was not just any float at the Tournament of Roses - Rose Parade.
For me, this was a celebration of a ten year journey which began with three organ transplants, two of which were from a donor whom I represented and paid tribute to on this day. While the Fabing family sat in the grandstands, and their dear Brice was adorned with a floragraph on the float; while I clutched a picture of him along the ride - this was not just my journey. It meant much, much more than that! From the moment we had decorated the float with the Fabing family, I found myself thinking endlessly about their path and how they were able to cope with the loss of their son. I thought about how far they had progressed from the raw emotions that had consumed them on that fateful day of 10/31/2005. I thought about how much they had given in terms of accepting me into their life. And I thought about the responsibility that I felt to treat their son with the dignity and respect that had been deserved for such an act of gracious generosity.
Along this ride, I would meet several other miracle survivors, who like myself had great stories to share. We were in a club--a club that no one would ever sign up for, but we were most grateful to be a member of. As if there had been a Peace Train, we were going to ride along the Hope Float of Donate Life.
It was the day before the parade where I had my biggest rush of emotion. It was at that time, where we received our seat assignments and performed a dress rehearsal. I would be one of four people to stand on the float for the 5 1/2 mile run along Colorado Blvd. When I stepped up to my perch atop the float and the music began to play, I had this rush of emotion, of gratitude and pride that I would ever be in this position. When I thought of where I was just ten years ago, truly on the edge between life and death, how could I ever have dreamed that I would be here. Life is a wonder, indeed. And we had not even started the ride at this point.
The next morning began at 5:00 am. We met in the lobby of our hotel where a bus would transport us to breakfast and the float. The group all met and conversed about the cherished time we were about to spend with one another. There were no complaints by anyone. We had all been blessed to be here. Without the miracles of medical technology and incredible circumstances none of us could be here on this day. And yet we were. Then after some waiting and photo ops we all found our spots atop the float. And then, as chance would have it, the float broke down - the engine would not start. But as all of us survivors had needed a tow in life, so too did the Donate Life float. How fitting! Not to worry, as a tow truck jumped into the line and we would be towed for the run along Colorado Blvd.
For the next three plus hours, it was sheer joy. We smiled, we waved, we yelled "Happy New Year" to the crowd of an estimated 700,000 people. The crowd cheered, took pictures and treated us like royalty. And even though we were one of over forty floats in this three hour parade, we felt as if we were the only float on this day. And as I once believed my story of my triple organ transplant was unique, I was humbled to be around the other float riders who had equally great stories and miracles to share. Perhaps we were the miracle float. One lady yelled, "God bless all of you" and I thought, "She's right, God did bless all of us," at least on this day.