I cannot thank LOPA and The Southern Eye Bank enough for offering me a platform to share Clint’s love story. I have learned over the past 14 years…that it is not because of “the loss of him” that keeps his legacy alive, but it is truly because “he still lives within me” and the love continues to grow. That is why his legacy continues to live on in the hearts of others. You allowed me to find a place for my love to go and for that I am forever grateful.
On June 7, 2008, our world came to a crashing end. My perfect 2-year-old son wondered out of our house and drowned in our front pond. I did not know what I was going to do and had to no idea how I was going to continue to breathe. I remember receiving a call from LOPA just hours after coming home without my precious boy. I was approached regarding donation. I had to ask if I could call back because I was still trying to process what I was hearing. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that Clint was gone and not in the next room just napping. I said, “I need to pause.” That is exactly what I did. I hung up and said that someone was calling and asking if we would want Clint to be a donor. It was decided that if we were donors…wouldn’t that mean our children would be. Not another word was spoken, and I called back, and said yes. I did not know exactly what that yes would mean and how BIG of a yes, I was giving. It was allowing Clint the chance to be a hero to a stranger, it was allowing a stranger to have a renewed quality of life and the gift of sight. The biggest thing that came with that YES was it was about to provide me with HOPE. Renewed hope that love can be lived out and grow without the physical person still here. That the most selfless act another human can give is the gift of life to a stranger. I would have platform to stand on so I could direct all that love that I had for him and a precious love story to share. I waited a year and reached out to LOPA and wanted to get involved. I knew that other families needed to know the importance of this big decision and that it is something that should be talked about and decided upon before being in the throes of tragedy. Donation was something that was only addressed to me when going to the DMV to get my drivers license but what about these sweet children that don’t have a say and don’t have a voice and don’t make it to the DMV…we are their decision makers. SO, I SPOKE, EDUCATED and I SHARED. I was able to meet some of the most beautiful souls through LOPA and The Southern Eye Bank. I met other bereaved families and I felt supported and understood. I felt like Clint mattered and that he was special. It was then that I found a love for helping other families who had lost children.
I later wrote a letter to Clint’s recipients and a few years later, I received the most amazing letter from Joseph, Clint’s sight recipient. We were able to meet and that was one of the most rewarding days of my life. I remembered thinking how one of the most special moments in my life was able to come from one of the darkest.
Clint’s love story led me to an amazing job where I was the program director for a nonprofit where we assisted families who had lost babies due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Again, I was able to share Clint’s story of pain to purpose and offer hope and healing to so many other families who were grieving.
Knowing that Clint did not die a death in vain, it was always on my heart to continue his legacy by opening a nonprofit in his memory to assist parents who have suffered the loss of a child between the ages 1 – 18 years old. I am the proud founder of The RescYOU Group. We are a nonprofit that serves ten parishes in Acadiana. We offer financial aid for end-of-life expenses, free clinical grief counseling, sibling support through our Child Life Program, monthly peer to peer grief support groups, and a protocol / system in place that pairs a newly bereaved family with a navigator that helps to guide them on what to do next.
I believe with all my heart that I would not be here today if it had not been for LOPA and The Southern Eye Bank. That decision…that YES…. allowed my Clint to be a hero and it changed the entire trajectory of my grief journey. The gift of donation is a truly a ripple effect…that YES will continue to give back to us in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine. Sometimes I believe that because of CLINT and because of that YES….IT WAS TRULY MY LIFE THAT WAS SAVED!
With a grateful heart,
Clint’s Mom, Reecie Gilmore