Nick Grout

To sit and talk with someone about donating your son’s organs is other worldly, but when the person starts out by saying your son signed his license to be an organ donor, you simply become a reflection of his wishes and an admirer of his soul.

This was the position my wife, daughter and I found ourselves in when our son Nick was involved in a swimming accident in July 2006. After several days in the ICU it was clear that Nick was not going to make it and a decision needed to be made. But Nick had made that decision and we simply gave it our blessing. As a result, 6 recipients received life saving organs. One person received Nick’s heart.

At Nick’s Celebration of Life Service, I gave his eulogy. My closing comment was this… “I’d like to send a message to whoever got Nick’s heart. Walk proudly for you have the heart of the best son and brother a mother, father and sister could ever hope for; always be true to yourself because Nick would have wanted you to; and do good things in this world because that was Nick’s destiny had he lived; and one more thing, know that you are not alone in your specialness because the heart of Nick Grout lives on in all of us too!”

Little did we know at the time that we would forge a very special and lasting relationship with the man (and his wife) who was the heart recipient. What began with a simple letter written by us and mailed via the folks at CDT, led to a regular exchange of letters over the course of many years. After a time of communicating anonymously, we made the decision to ask if they would like to exchange names and identities. We did so and began to mail our letters directly to one another once or twice a year. We then took the even bolder step of asking them if they’d like to meet. After years of building a relationship based upon mutual trust and respect established through our handwritten letters, we met on a warm July day on the oceanfront of a small B & B in Massachusetts. The essence of that gathering is best captured in the poem below which I wrote soon after we met.

5 Chairs – 4 People – 1 Heart

Nowhere else in the world is this happening!

His name is Dennis and he has my son’s heart;

And we are meeting; Dennis, Gail, Colleen and me.

5 Chairs:

There are 4 of us but one is for Nick,

He deserves a seat for were it not for him,

We wouldn’t be meeting. Five chairs overlooking

the ocean. No one else is in sight.

Nowhere else in the world is this happening!

4 People:

4 people drawn together in an unimaginable way;

Grief and joy, joy and grief, shared but not equal;

Dennis and Nick, Nick and Dennis, a heart with 2 names;

One cannot describe a meeting like this. We are the same,

We are different; we are four, we are two, we are one.

Nowhere else in the world is this happening!

1 Heart:

No words can describe, no actions can explain, no

mind can comprehend, how we gathered;

Strangers in name only, our connectedness is formed by the

unthinkable, and our bond is forged forever by the beat of one heart.

Nowhere else in the world is this happening!

While the tragedy of losing Nick will never go away, we have discovered strength and solace in establishing a relationship with the recipient of his heart. And this strength and solace has been mutual. We have learned to slowly recognize and share in the grief and joy that only such a tragedy and a blessing could ever provide. The care with which we have crafted our connection has led us to a place that we would not have thought possible seven years ago. The risk of reaching out to one another has created a connection that  reaches to the very soul of the human spirit.

Thank you Nick!