Archive for January, 2011

The eyes of Christina Taylor Green

January 18, 2011

Last year in this country more than 6,500 grieving families said yes to organ donation. For 2011 we know many thousands more will give the gift of life. Among them: the family of Christina Taylor Green, the youngest person to lose her life in the Tuscon shootings. Only nine when she was killed, Christina came to see her congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because she wanted to learn more about how government works. As President Obama said in his eulogy for the victims, Christina saw the world with the innocence and hope of a child.

Thanks to Christina’s parents’ decision to donate, two other children have had their sight restored. John Green, Christina’s father, says the knowledge that Christina’s corneas were able to help other children in need has been a great comfort to the family. Donation is a powerful act of generosity that affects donor families as profoundly as the recipients of their gifts.

When the unimaginable happens – a child dies – families who are able to donate can find a powerful sense of meaning even in the most senseless or tragic death. Knowing that something positive has come from your loss changes the course of grief. That’s been my experience in the wake of my daughter Maya’s death almost 19 years ago. In our case, because she was in an irreversible coma and declared brain dead, Maya was able to donate solid organs as well as tissue (including her corneas) and bone. Ultimately, our gift saved the lives of four people, restored sight for two, and may have helped upwards of 50 people with bone and tissue grafts.

Maya lives in our memories. She also continues her physical existence through the many people helped by our gift. I have been fortunate to meet two of those people – the man who received Maya’s heart, Fernando, and the woman who received her liver, Patti. Over the years, knowing Patti and Fernando has brought comfort, inspiration, and a very special bond of friendship. Both of these extraordinary people had young families at the time of their transplants in 1992. In my darkest hours, knowing that those children could still grow up with their parents soothed my heart.

A few years after Maya died, I imagined what it might be like for the two people who had received her corneas to be looking at the world through her eyes. Learning about Christina’s gift of sight brought back the feelings that inspired that poem. Here it is.

New Eyes


The red squirrel darts across a pine branch,

pauses, flicks its tail this way, then that.

The December day is clear and fine.

I describe this to you,

although I don’t know if squirrels

or weather interest you.

Why tell you about your sister

or Christmas,

the clothes I still keep under my bed?

As if speech could stitch the living to the dead.

We are here, you see.  Our eyes still

wander over the everyday,

gulping it down.


I imagine the gloved hands

of a surgeon, a touch

delicate as snow;

Stainless steel carving

sight out of you

grafting it to new eyes.

When she came to

did her eyes leap

to catch the world

as it ran at her?

Or, looking in

a borrowed window,

do strangers fall into the dark of you?


The Hebrew word for heaven

means “another place.”

Daughter, I think of you

in alternate space,

a membrane so thin

I could reach across

our worlds running side by side,

invisible tracks, a delicious passing

or the squirrel’s flick of tail,

first on your side, then on mine.


Lazy Girl’s Healthy Turkey Pick-up

January 2, 2011

With a nod to my grandmother Eleanor Cotton who used to use turkey leftovers to create a yummy dish known in our family as “Turkey Pick-up,” I created a new healthier version. Grandma used stuffing for her version. I’ve substituted brown rice and added sauteed crimini mushrooms. Plus a dusting of shaved parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Delish! Vegans or vegetarians could substitute Tofurkey and leave out the cheese.

Ingredient list:

2 cups brown rice cooked (follow instructions on the bag)

leftover turkey cut into cubes

1/2 onion diced

6 – 8 crimini mushrooms sliced

1 c. Whole Foods mushroom gravy and/or turkey gravy

1 tbs parmesan cheese

1 tbs breadcrumbs

salt and pepper and thyme to taste

How to assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with canola spray or use olive oil, if preferred. Spoon in a layer of turkey cubes, cover with a layer of brown rice and season to taste. Saute mushrooms and onions in butter or olive oil until carmelized. Spoon mixture over rice. Pour gravy (or other type of sauce if you are a vegetarian) over mixture. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until bubbly and browned on top.

Serving suggestions:

I added my homemade cranberry sauce with orange peel, pecans, and cinammon. This adds a bit of tang and sweetness to the dish. In addition, a leafy green veggie like swiss chard is a great accompaniment. Or try a salad made with apples, goat cheese or feta cheese, and pecans with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. Easy and delicious.

Happy New Year and good eating to all!

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