Friday, December 14, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1644 - We just don’t know from whence a second gift of life may come!

  A gift of life. Life is a precious gift from God. Sometimes human beings are vessels for a second gift of life. Of course, mothers and fathers are vessels for God’s first gift of life. But sometimes a second gift of life comes from other directions. It’s still from God, but we never know from what vessel a second gift of life may come.

  Ola Morrow lives in Maplesville, Alabama. Before that, she lived in Selma. Before that, she lived in Iowa and Minnesota. For a number of years she worked in the Office of the Dallas County Local Legislative Delegation. She helped me in so many ways. In addition to her regular duties, she was a great big help with the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. She helped with so many of the 50 or so events each year. However, she helped in particular by coordinating the Jubilee Parade, the Children’s Slow Ride from Selma to Montgomery, and the Black History Poster Contest. She also helped with the Annual Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast and the Selma to Montgomery March. We never know from whence a second gift of life may come.

  Ola insisted on furthering her education, attending Alabama State University to get a degree in social work while working full time. But she never utilized her degree in that field. She continued working at the Dallas County Local Legislative Delegation Office for 16 years on a meager salary.

  Ola is the mother of three children. She is the grandmother of two. One grandchild is Marquis Burns. I knew Marquis personally. Marquis and his mother lived with Ola the first two years of his life. She was a special gift to Marquis. They lived with Ola several different times as he was growing up. In addition to these first two years, they lived with Ola during the period between his 7th and 10th years and again during his 17th and 18th years.

  Marquis was a very intelligent and charming boy, but he struggled intensely with his mother. He was not always respectful. In fact, he was often downright disrespectful, but he did not see it that way. When he was in that 17th to 18th-year period, he wanted to run the streets. Of course, his grandmother and mother rejected this. Ola was extremely concerned. She loved all her children and grandchildren, but Marquis held a very special place in her heart. Living with her from birth for the first two years of his life and then off and on had created a special connection. We never know from whence a second gift of life may come.

  Like any grandmother, Ola wanted the best for her grandchild. When Marquis was 17, she asked me to meet with him weekly. Marquis’ father was never in his life. Ola said that she asked me to meet with him because she wanted Marquis to see up close a man in authority who knows how to respect women. Also, she knew from my speeches that I had struggled mightily with my mother as I was growing up.

  As I remember, Marquis and I met weekly for a couple of months, then he quit coming. I assumed that we had lost him. Marquis dropped out of school, passed the GED, and enlisted in the military. He lasted only about six months. He came back to Selma with a wife and then moved to North Carolina where his wife’s people lived. Then they moved to Minnesota where some of Ola’s people lived.

  Ola developed acute kidney disease. She was diagnosed in 2016 but feels strongly that she had that undiagnosed illness for some time. She was on dialysis three days a week, which limited her life in a myriad of ways. Sometime in late 2016 she informed me that she was going to retire on disability after the 2017 Bridge Crossing Jubilee concluded in March. She said that she did not want to work if she could not give a full measure. Ola retired in April of 2017.

  Since Ola did not have diabetes, she was a candidate for a kidney transplant. However, the waiting list was three to five years. When Marquis heard about the long transplant waiting list, he offered to be tested to see if his kidneys were a match. Ola rejected the idea outright because he was so young and may need his kidney later in life. Marquis persisted, calling Ola every single day for a month. He kept insisting on being tested for a kidney match. Finally, Ola relented for him to be tested but still did not agree to a transplant if his kidneys matched. Then Marquis was in a terrible auto accident. There was a chance that he may not live. When he came to in the hospital, his first question was “How are my kidneys?” The thing that he was most concerned about was not his own life but the life of his grandmother.

  When Marquis recovered sufficiently from the auto accident, he traveled to Alabama to be tested. Marquis’ kidneys were good matches for Ola. Ola finally relented and agreed to the transplant. The new kidney gave Ola a new lease on life. She is not bound to go to dialysis three times a week. She is not limited in so many ways. She can live a normal life. Instead of Marquis calling once a week as he used to, he calls Ola every day. He teases his grandmother, saying, “Although I am far away in Minnesota, I am present at every Sunday dinner in Maplesville, Alabama because my kidney is inside you.” (Sunday dinner is a big thing at Ola’s home). Now, Marquis gets along so much better with his mother. The gift of the kidney to his grandmother was also a gift to Marquis as well. It was also a gift for his mother. We just never know from whence a second gift of life may come.

EPILOGUE – Every time we struggle to help someone, especially children, we plant a living seed. We never know when that seed may take root, sprout, grow strongly, and produce life-altering fruit. That means that there is always hope because we just don’t know from whence a second gift of life may come.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

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