A year ago, I climbed atop the DonateLife float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses - Rose Parade. Getting ready to watch the 2017 parade, I have much to reflect upon. When I was selected to ride on the float, I really didn’t know what to expect. At no time was I prepared for the rush of emotion that I would feel on that day. It was an experience I will never forget.
I was humbled by the other amazing float riders who, like me, were so very blessed to still be alive. When you survive a triple organ transplant ordeal as I did, you tend to think that your story is the most unique of them all. But then you meet others who have equally amazing journeys and it makes you realize that we are all but a chosen few. Meeting these survivors and mutually appreciating our good fortune to be alive, well--that was worth the price of admission.
I was also humbled by the hard work of OneLegacy’s Rose Parade Float team in their work to make the float so beautiful, and the Donate Life Americ volunteers from across the country who took such care of us all, and shared their connections and experiences with the miracles of donation and transplantation. Not just organ—the gifts of life, healing, and sight were many and varied. What extraordinary feats of modern medicine, that we all spent time together, healed and happy!
The second observation was for the ride along Colorado Blvd itself. Nothing can prepare you for what that will feel like. Of course, as a native Californian, I’ve driven along that street a dozen times, but never with a million people lining the sidewalks, yelling and screaming as we would pass by.
In the beginning of the parade route, the streets were wide and the crowd swelled on both sides of the street. This is where the television cameras were located and the final parade broadcast by Bob Eubank and Stephanie Edwards. They had been broadcasting the parade since I was a kid. But as the parade route went on, the streets became much narrower and the crowd much thinner. By the end, we were close enough to be able to literally touch the crowd as we drove by. We could see their faces and feel their emotions. This was quite special, too.
Finally, what made this day so very special on a personal level was the reason for my participation. My donor was honored on the float, and a floragraph (flower photograph) adorned the float amongst others who had lost their lives, while heroically saving the lives of others.
I proudly carried a picture of my donor hero, Brice Fabing, while his parents and family sat in the grandstands alongside mine. I was even wearing an Apple Watch which allowed me to send “our” heartbeat to the Fabing family, watching in the stands, while I rode along. It was an amazing feeling.
I know that this opportunity to participate in the pomp and circumstance of a Rose Parade was a once in a lifetime event. I will never look at the parade the same way. To all of the incredible float riders, walkers, and those memorialized by floragraphs—true heroes—I am thinking of you all and sending you my very best wishes for a spectacular ride down Colorado Boulevard.
This January 2nd, watching the parade, I encourage you to feel inspired, and consider how lucky we all are, each in our own ways. What grace and goodness exist in this world. For on this day, all the flowers will be in bloom.