Speaking at St.Patrick’s Cathedral- TRIO Manhattan’s 2014 Remember and Rejoice
I was honored to have been asked by TRIO Manhattan to speak at St.Patrick’s Cathedral for the 2014 Remember and Rejoice event. My sister flew in from Ireland for this and it was the first time she would hear me speak in public about my son Stephen.
In the past three and a half years I have talked many times at all different kinds of events, but this event was something I was really nervous about. St Patrick’s Cathedral is an iconic place; it is so important to me and my faith. I thought about the time I brought my parents to St. Patrick’s and I knew my son Stephen had visited it in the past. The morning of the event I took the train from Lindenhurst to Penn Station with my boyfriend, my sister, daughter and a group of my friends. We chatted all the way in and in my head I prayed that I would say everything I needed to say today.
I wanted to be perfect and make my son Stephen proud. I got some advice from Mike Sosna. He told me to write down exactly what I wanted to say because I could feel overwhelmed with my surroundings. I was so thankful that I did that, because my knees were going together when I had to walk to the podium to speak. I took off my glasses and couldn’t really see anyone. I read from my paperwork and when I would look up everything was a blur, which was actually really good because I knew if I saw my sister I would cry.
Speaking at St. Patrick’s was a wonderful experience and I was so happy to have been asked to do it, but I do prefer sitting with the audience and watching others speak. The event itself is so beautiful and heartfelt. The group put so much time and effort into it to make it a wonderful experience for all. I would highly recommend everyone who can attend it.
Here is the text of my presentation at the Remember and Rejoice event on April 26, 2014 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Good Afternoon, my name is Margaret Valsechi and I am a donor mom.
My son Stephen was my oldest of my three children; he was a wonderful son and brother. He loved all kinds of music and was always trying to get me to listen to bands he liked. He was adventurous and wanted to travel the world. Stephen moved to Ireland in 2009, to see family and start his travels.
He ended up staying in Ireland and his sisters and I got to spend a few weeks with him that summer. We had a great time together, enjoying a family wedding and Stephen brought his sisters to his favorite places in Belfast. We didn’t know it then but that would be the last time we would see Stephen alive.
In the early hours of October 4, 2010 my sister Mary called from Belfast to let us know that Stephen had had a bad accident and was at the local hospital fighting for his life. My daughters, my boyfriend and I arrived in Ireland early on October 5th and went straight to the hospital. Almost every member of our family was there praying for Stephen, from the oldest member of the family my uncle Hugh who is in his 80’s to my great nephew and every one in between. We spent the next few hours with Stephen, holding his hand, talking to him and praying for him.
At 3pm the doctors told us that Stephen was brain dead. That was the most devastating news I have ever heard in my life. This handsome 6 foot 6, healthy, happy child of mine was gone. How would we ever see another day without him?
As a family we knew that Stephen was a registered organ donor so we did not hesitate when we were asked about organ donation. It would be the final selfless act my son would do on this earth. Stephen’s organs were sent to England, he gave the gift of life to four people on October 6, 2010. His kidneys were given to a 42 year old woman and a 17 year old girl. Both had been on dialysis for 3 years. His liver went to a 40 year old woman, and his heart went to a 25 year old man.
After a wake and funeral mass in Ireland we returned to New York and brought Stephen home with us to be buried in the same cemetery as his dad who had died 10 years earlier.
About four months after Stephen’s death we received our first of many letters from Bobby, who received Stephen’s heart. He thanked us for the wonderful gift that Stephen gave him. We cried every time we read the letters from Bobby and his fiancé Becca. We wrote back right away. In one of the letters from them, Bobby and Becca told us they were expecting their first child in October 2011. Charlie Stephen was born near the end of October. We are honored that his parents gave him Stephen as his middle name.
Eventually we started writing directly to each other and got photos form Bobby and Becca with pictures of Charlie, what a beautiful baby. My sons Stephen’s gift had now helped this young couple bring a new life into the world.
In August 2012 my daughter Ellen and I traveled to England to meet Bobby, and watch him participate in the British Transplant games. It was an emotional couple of days getting to meet Bobby, Becca, Charlie and all their families. But we felt a bond right away and were accepted by all in the family. Bobby let us feel his new heart beating in his chest. There are no words to describe the feeling of hearing your child’s heart beat again after their death. It was breathtaking. We kept in contact with each other after our return home to NY. We speak every week and get to Skype every so often. Hearing my beautiful grandson Charlie call me Nanny on the phone brings so much joy to my life.
Ellen and I returned to England in June of last year to attend Bobby and Becca’s wedding. It was wonderful to see them become husband and wife, knowing how sick Bobby had been and now here was this handsome young man waiting at the altar for his bride.
By the end of June of this year another baby will come into our lives as Bobby and Becca are expecting baby number 2. We have plans to travel to England a few months after the birth of the baby.
The death of my son Stephen is something our family will never recover from; he is missed and loved every day. It has been my honor to be his mom and a privilege to have him in my life for 26 years. His life continues in those he gave the gift of life to and to all who knew him and all who hear his amazing story. Thank you.