April Is Donate Life Month

            Samuel Evan Ellis could not have known when he got a tattoo on his hand that the words he had chosen for his body art would become professorial – “Never Die.” When his sister saw the tattoo, she was a bit miffed, asking him why he would select that wording. He simply replied, “Because I want my legacy to live on.”

            Ellis was killed in an automobile accident last summer. The Old Rochester Regional High School graduate was just 20 years old. His sister, Sophia-Lynn Bechard, recalling that day when she questioned his choice of words, has come to find comfort in them and his other decision to be an organ donor. Ellis’ grandmother, former Mattapoisett Town Clerk Barbara Ellis, remembers her beloved grandson this way: “He was proud of the fact that, even though he was so young, he could help others if anything happened.”

            April is National Donate Life Month, a time to not only celebrate the gift of life so many thousands around the country have provided through organ donation, but also to highlight the persistent need for organ donation registration and the difficult decision that families make to help save others, even as their own grief bares its teeth.

            Bechard says her brother’s decision to select organ donation was not surprising. “Sam loved people, he was always helping out,” she said, recalling a younger brother whose generous spirit and compassion for others was reflected by over 500 people who attended his wake. “He was a friend to everybody. …He was the light in everyone’s life.”

            Now a mere 10 months later, the extended Ellis family wants everyone to know that Sam’s gifts of life have helped many. More than one person is the beneficiary of Sam’s desire to leave a legacy of life-sustaining importance.

            Bechard is now a volunteer with New England Donor Services, the same organization that has helped her family through the process of keeping Sam’s final wish. “They have been with us every step of the way,” she said.

            A statement from the organization reads in part: “This is the eighteenth annual National Donate Life Month, a celebration commemorating those who have given the gift of life through organ and tissue donation. … [Fifty-eight] percent of the U.S. adult population are registered organ and tissue donors, yet the number of people in need of transplants continues to outpace the number of organs donated.”

            While losing a loved one is never an easy thing to experience regardless of age or circumstance, in some instances there can be the chance to change the lives of others who wait for donors.

            “Sam is getting to live on through other people; we get comfort from that thought,” Bechard quietly stated.

            On Wednesday, April 7, a flag will be raised at Mattapoisett Town Hall to remember all who have selected organ donation and to remind everyone that many more organ donors are still needed.

            If you want to learn more about organ donation opportunities, visit neds.org.

By Marilou Newell

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