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In a father’s words: Steph had a remarkable life.

Billy Mutter reflects on his daughter Stephanie Green’s remarkable life for Father’s Day.

Father’s Day! What a wonderful day of recognition for all fathers. As my seven-year-old granddaughter recently told me, Father’s Day is “the official time that us kids get to hang out and spend time with our father and grandfathers.” I personally love the way she thinks! I love the attention from both of my granddaughters as well as my oldest daughter. I think they sense my need for that extra attention on most any of the holidays, especially, Easter, Memorial Day and Father’s Day. 

Stephanie with her daughter Emilyn

I still look forward to the ever important “official” annual reminder that I am the father of two daughters. You see, my youngest daughter Stephanie had her second heart transplant on Easter Sunday morning in 2016. Unfortunately, she developed some complications along the way and died on Memorial Day of that same year. And just a few weeks later, along came Father’s Day. There was an obvious void that day, but there was also a beacon of sunlight in knowing that Steph was in a far greater (and better) place. Through my granddaughter, I also saw that we could manage our pain and losses by moving forward one step at a time.  Although she was only three years old at the time, she had the maturity of someone much older. God works in mysterious ways and you could see his work through this small child. She missed her mommy, but she made a point to talk about her at every opportunity. I learned much from that little girl in the weeks and months since Steph’s passing. I realized that we cannot change God’s plan when he decides that our time on earth has come. However, we can adjust to the changes. I also realized that we do not have to stop living our own lives either. I also followed my granddaughter’s best approach to healing, and to continue to do what her mommy would have wanted us to do – tell her story and hope that others can benefit as much as she did!    

Stephanie and Billy

Despite her passing at the relatively young age of 31, Steph had a remarkable story and a remarkable life. If you were one of the many who attended her service, you would have left the church with a clear understanding of the positive impact that she had on family, friends, strangers and communities far and near. Her life story nearly ended over 24 years ago when she was diagnosed with end stage heart disease at the young age of ten. Without a life-saving transplant, her life would have ceased in 1995. Just imagine, had a distraught parent not donated their child’s organs during their devastating time of grief, the last twenty years of Steph’s life would not have occurred; there would have been no teen years, no high school, no college, no marriage, no children, no writings, no journey, no nothing!  Her earthly life would have ceased at the young age of ten. But it didn’t end there for Steph!  It truly was, as she often said, “just the beginning of the beginning!” You see, Steph got that charitable gift of life from a complete stranger! And because of it, she made this world a better place for everyone she touched. At least we know she died trying as hard as she could.

Except for our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, her greatest heroes to ever walk on this planet were a ten-year-old little boy and his parents, who chose to give her the gift of life that subsequently pumped blood throughout her body for an additional 20+ years!  Of course, she gained another hero on Easter Sunday in 2016 when another selfless organ donor provided her with a replacement heart. 

As her dad, I would have loved to have been her hero, but I couldn’t save her life like these compassionate heroes did. But that is not to say that one day I may get an opportunity to be someone else’s hero! 

Donating your organs is a great charitable opportunity!  It is truly a great opportunity to become someone’s hero. It is an opportunity to provide an ultimate gift; the gift of life!  Through organ donation, others have a chance to live, just like Steph!   

Billy and Stephanie

Steph was so proud to be a transplant recipient!  She and I sure used to love to give talks on organ donation to pretty much anyone that was willing to listen. It all started within a few months of her first transplant. We were invited to an American Heart Association banquet.  When we showed up, we were escorted to our table just like the other attendees. While enjoying a glass of tea, Steph blurted out with the question “Dad, what is a keynote speaker?” I responded and was quickly informed that her name and mine were listed as……. you guessed it, keynote speakers! To this day, I have never figured out why I didn’t know that she and I were the speakers of the evening! Being completely caught off guard and without a prepared speech, I tried to catch my breath and then began making cryptic notes on a napkin. Of course, Steph set her wet glass on the napkin and the ink just blended into one big mess. We were eventually introduced to the crowd and I immediately held up my soaked napkin and quickly declared that our prepared speech took a bath and stated the best way forward was to just tell of Stephanie’s wonderful story and her journey. Steph then polished it up with a few additional comments. The talk was an overwhelming success because it came from the heart. Soon after that surprise event, we started getting invitations to speak to groups throughout Hampton Roads. We even had several opportunities to address medical students who were learning about solid organ transplants.   

Both of us seemed to have found our passion in talking about organ donation. In her adult years, she wrote for several organ donation awareness organizations. Being in a Virginia Masonic Lodge, I saw an opportunity to tell Steph’s story by giving organ donation talks in various Masonic Lodges throughout the area.   

I miss my speaking partner more than anyone knows. But every time I give a talk, I can hear her words as much as I speak my own.

Stephanie and Billy dancing at her wedding.

My family gets great comfort in knowing how Steph lived her 31 years of life. Not only was she an inspiration to us, but also to many others who followed her journey from elementary school through adulthood. She was one amazing daughter, sister, wife, and mother!  You know, it is usually the parents in a household who do the teaching. That was not always the case in my house. It is very accurate to say that Steph’s unfortunate circumstances taught everyone in my family many lessons about compassion, faith, humility, and the importance of living life to its fullest! When her husband and daughter came along, she taught them as well. Her journey was far from alone. She touched the hearts of many along the way. We have had so many people reach out and tell us what a profound difference Steph made in their everyday lives. Hearing firsthand that your child had a positive influence on another is the best compliment a father or mother could ever hear. That type of positive feedback really makes this dad proud!  It is also very humbling.  

Despite her adversities and challenges, Steph worked hard to find the positives in things no matter how slight they were. She rarely dwelled on the negative. She would say, “Daddy, sometimes it’s hard not to be mad at my circumstances. But there are many other people who have things much worse than me.” She was always so optimistic.   

These words from Steph speak to my heart often and in huge ways. She said… “I love helping and I don’t always need a reason to do so. It’s important to realize that we give more than we take, and love even more than we’d want to be loved.  No amount of money, time, or heart that is given because you care, will ever be a burden to you.”

For my baby girl, I cannot speak often enough on a topic that she so embraced and supported. In Steph’s honor, my goal is to continue to promote organ donation by sharing her transplant story and the remarkable act of becoming someone’s hero through organ donation.

In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share Stephanie’s last Father’s Day wishes to me and her followers from her Facebook page.  Her writings always provide a glimpse of her faith, hope, grace, love and humility. It is a gentle reminder of how blessed I am to have my daughters and granddaughters to simply call me dad and “grindaddy!” 

 

Stephanie Green’s last Father’s Day post to her father before she passed.

Here’s to all the Dad’s out there who spend all year loving your babies just to get one full day of recognition. Yes, I said it. But oh is it true. Father’s Day is such a sweet day because we get to honor those that mean the most to us… yet my dad honors me every single day. He loves me every day…. it seems a little backwards that we just give one day to our daddies. If I were president Woodrow Wilson – I would have, at the very least, made Father’s Day a national holiday every month. Just Saying.

As Father’s Day has reared to its end, I have had the great joy in reading all your Facebook posts to your poppas….I’ve even giggled at some of the pictures you have posted. I shed tears with some of you as you have longed to celebrate with your daddy and not just his memory. And today, I hung my head with you for the daddies in your life that just didn’t get it… who missed out on their little ones and never understood its greatness and the honor that come from being “Daddy.” But what I have not done today, is shared with you a glimpse of my Daddy. So, this is geared toward my one true fan… My dad. He reads everything I post and when it’s been a little too long, he’s quick to remind me of my “superior blogging skills” and how they are greatly missed. Dad, you have never lacked in the making someone feel good bug and for that I’m truly grateful.

Billy and Emilyn

My sweet Daddy is my strength on so many levels and I am so blessed to call this man Daddy. Daddy has taught me so much that I long to pass on to my daughter. He’s taught me what unconditional love looks like and the longing to want to protect those he loves most is of utmost importance. He has taught me that sometimes having a bigger heart is better than having a bigger wallet. That life is tough but there’s always a silver lining. To never meet a stranger. That even though we’re tenderhearted we don’t have to be quite so gullible, all the time. He’s taught me how to be strong through my tears and laugh through the pain. How to love honestly and walk purely. How to push myself beyond what I ever thought I could do and never give anything less than my 110%. How to appreciate the upside of the hurt and find wisdom in the lesson. My Dad was the one that walked into the operating room with me countless times till I fell asleep because I was scared to do it alone. He was the one that pushed me to take my first step onto a softball field and then again just 6 months post-transplant. He’s the one that listened when I cried because he understood my struggle. My Dad fights for me whenever he has opportunity too…both in little things and the big ones. He has walked through this life with me not only encouraging me to be the best that I could, but listening when I felt I wasn’t and telling me all the reasons I was. Daddy, thank you for teaching me and still teaching me all the time. You are the rock in my life and a true anchor for my heart. In all honesty, I give you complete credit that I’m still here to see today…on the days that have been too much you remind me why they’re worth it and that it does get better. You’ve protected me on days even when I didn’t want to be and you knew just how far too push. You made sure that I had a future and I’m grateful for every decision you’ve made for me. Thank you for always providing and for making life growing up so easy. It wasn’t until I was married and on my own that I realized how much you did for us and I couldn’t be more thankful. I will always hope that I can offer to my daughter all you have offered to me. What’s so great, is that she gets to learn from her Granddaddy too. I didn’t know I could love you more until I saw you fall in love with my sweet girl…how my heart swells for you. Thank you for being the greatest Daddy. I could never long for more. I’m a proud Daddy’s Girl…but even more proud that I get to call you Daddy. You deserve so much. I love you, Daddy — more than there are words.

“Until we meet again.”

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