Teddy's Gift of Life

What fuels your purpose, passion, and dedication? For me, it was not allowing my brother Andy a formerly incarcerated citizen to be a statistic. I dedicated my life to him. It was important to me that he knew he always had family support and that his mistake never defined him. I wanted the sun always to be shining on his face and warmth to fill his heart. As the years go by and I learn more about the incarcerated population as a whole, I realize how fortunate Andy was in having family support and taking part in a program that gave him the skills to now have a successful business. I received a call last week from a friend who works tirelessly at the hospital to support her family while showering her patients with love. She shared that there were a few incarcerated men in her care. One of these men spoke to her heart: Teddy, a patient who did not have much time to live. Teddy was an organ donor, and his organs already spoken for across the state of Florida. The doctors and nurses full of compassion were at their wit's end, trying to figure out a way to get Teddy’s mom to be by his side to whisper some lasting words to his lifeless body. My dear friend called on me to see what could be done to help. I jumped into action and was able to get in touch with Teddy's mom. Teddy's mom Connie had fallen on hard times and did not have the financial wherewithal to travel the 60 miles to her son. I put out a call of action to our Florida Cares Family for assistance. It took only a few minutes before people offered donations to bring Connie to Teddy’s side once again. I told Connie to get ready quickly; your ride will be there in 15 minutes. She was shocked and scared. She kept telling me she couldn’t pay. I reassured her that was not her worry. An hour and a half later, I received a message from my friend that Connie had arrived via the Uber we ordered for her. Connie had the chance to count the freckles on her son’s hands, run her fingers over the new growth on his head, and was able to feel his heartbeat through his chest as his hand lightly squeezed hers. I have to believe he knew his mother was there with him. Connie heard stories about her son from the officer that sat beside him. You see, Teddy, in many ways, was a stranger to his mom. It had been nearly eight years since mother and son were able to spend time together. Today Connie would labor with her son as he took his last breath the same way she labored to bring him into this world taking his first breath. In the last couple of days, Teddy has been on my mind. I never met him. I only heard he was a reserved kind of guy. He could fix lots of stuff. He took great pride in the work he did around the compound and being able to help the other guys out. One young man named Austin shared that he took him under his wing and taught him what it meant to be a man in the system. It didn’t mean ripping people off. It meant doing right by people. Its only fitting that a man with a set of standards would live on after death. Teddy’s heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver were all retrieved according to his mother. I often wonder how the recipients of Teddy's organs feel about incarcerated citizens. Do they know that a man who was serving his consequences behind bars for a mistake he made is the reason they have a second chance at life? I wonder if his heart will beat at a daughter’s wedding and if his lungs will sing take me out to the ball game. I hope these people come to know a little about Teddy. I do want them to understand the substandard of living he endured while incarcerated so that maybe they will find a voice for those incarcerated. But more importantly, I want them to know Teddy was just like them, a flawed human being who values life and believes in second chances. I challenge people who are impacted by incarceration or would like to make a positive difference in the lives of people who are often forgotten to donate to organizations like A Day Closer whose mission is to keep families connected and intact who have a loved one incarcerated. Please also join and become active in national groups for justice-related issues like FAMM and Florida related with Florida Cares. Teddy’s story would have died with him if it wasn’t for the amazing members of Florida Cares. Andrea Davis is a fierce advocate for criminal justice and prison reform. She works closely with Florida Cares, FAMM, and is a valued A Day Closer Champion.

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