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Oxford woman to help honor donor dad's gifts



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Oxford resident Molly McCubbin holds a photo of her late father, Russell McCubbin, of Attica. (click for larger version)
October 05, 2011 - You can hear the mixture of love and loss in Oxford resident Molly McCubbin's voice when she talks about her late father Russell.

"As my dad, he was perfect," she said. "He's my favorite person – still is and always will be. He was patient and encouraging. He was my biggest fan. He taught me everything that I know."

But it wasn't until after he died of a heart attack on Dec. 21, 2010 that Molly realized she'd taught him something – the importance of being an organ, eye and tissue donor.

"It's good that my dad had 59 years and I think it's great that somebody else might have a few more," she said. "Even though it was devastating to lose my dad, I'm glad to know that maybe somebody was able to continue their life. He a gave part of himself and I think that's important."

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Russell's decision to become a donor was apparently sparked by a conversation he once had with his daughter.

"My parents were always pretty open about their end-of-life wishes and that was something we talked about," Molly explained.

During that talk, she informed him that she was donor. "He was surprised, which surprised me," said Molly, who's heading into her senior year at Wayne State University with plans to obtain a bachleor's degree in psychology.

She was also surprised to learn that he was not a donor. "I would have assumed he was," she said.

Russell, who lived in Attica and worked as an engineer for the Lapeer-based Energy Steel & Supply Co., shared his reasons with her. Basically, "he wanted to leave the same way that he came – with all of his parts," according to Molly.

Knowing how much her father loved his children and what a generous, caring man he was, Molly explained to him why she believed it was so vital to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.

"I said to him, what if it was me who was in need of a transplant of some kind? Imagine how other parents would feel if they couldn't help their kids, if they couldn't save them. What a horrible, horrible position to find yourself in; where there's nothing you can do, but wait and pray. It was then that I think my dad considered what that would be like."

She knew that line of reasoning would hit home with him.

"My dad was never helpless," Molly said. "He would have done anything for his kids. We were the center of his whole world. That would have been his biggest fear – to see any of his kids in a position that he couldn't fix."

"I think that changed his mind. It wasn't until he died that I actually found out that he did decide to become an organ donor, which I felt great about."

Molly will have the opportunity to see how much her father's gifts were appreciated on Sunday, Oct. 9 when she attends the Michigan Donor Family Ceremony in Novi.

Sponsored by Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank, this poignant event offers comfort, healing and support to the families of donors. It's also an opportunity to memorialize the donors, who became heroes to hundreds of folks needing lifesaving organ, tissue and cornea transplants – the gifts of sight, healing and mobility.

Molly will attend the ceremony in the hopes of learning something new and maybe feeling some type of closure with regard to her father's sudden death.

"I lost my dad. This is pretty big for a 20-something-year-old girl," she explained. "I've never lost anybody before. I've never even had a family pet die. This my first experience with death. This is my first heartbreak.

"I've tried to accept all opportunities to deal with the grief and this (ceremony) is one of them. This is a part of my dad's death."

When asked why she became a donor, Molly replied, "It just made sense."

"No matter what your beliefs are about an afterlife – even if you don't believe in an afterlife – I know I don't need my organs. I don't need my tissues. I don't need any of that. But if somebody else does, why not use it?"

"The idea of somebody else being able to continue their life with my dad's gifts, or with my own, just seems like the right thing to do."

There are currently 3,000 patients in Michigan waiting for a lifesaving transplant. To join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and receive a heart symbol for the front of your driver's license or state ID card, please visit giftoflifemichigan.org or call (800) 482-4881.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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