An estimated 700 people attended the MidAmerica Transplant Services (MTS) candlelight ceremony last night to honor organ and tissue donors. MTS is the area’s organ procurement organization. Donor family members, along with several recipients, attended the event at the the memorial park adjacent to the MTS offices.
The centerpiece of the park is a sculpture by St. Louis artist Don Wiegand. The 12-foot sculpture, backed by a wall of warm gold-colored stone, features bas-relief bronze figures holding lit candles – meant to depict donor families. Last night’s ceremony mirrored the sculpture.
The ceremony included music and speeches. But the two most dramatic and moving parts of the night were the rose ceremony and candlelighting.
When signing in at before the event, donor families were asked to write the name of their loved one on a card. Later, as KTVI-TV news anchor Tom O’Neal, who emceed the event, read the names off the cards, family members came to the stage to get a rose.
The roses were handed out by organ and tissue recipients from the area’s transplant centers. Heart transplant recipient Megan Moss represented Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
It was a bittersweet moment for many families, to hear their loved one’s name, remember their loss and then, when they received a rose from a transplant recipient, to see a symbol of how their loved one had passed on the gift of life .
Large votive candles, decorated by family members before the ceremony, glowed next to the stage throughout the program. At the end of the ceremony, everyone in attendance was asked to light a smaller candle in tribute to organ and tissue donors and honoring those who make the generous choice to donate.
The candles lit up the breezy night. And though the storms that had been predicted didn’t materialize, a few raindrops, and teardrops, fell.