There is a funeral service for Ashley Theriot in Pensacola, Fla. today. She was just 32, and a gifted freelance writer.
The death of a vibrant young person is a tragedy in all ways. But the person who dies can leave a gift for someone else to go on. That can be a flesh and blood blessing.
Ashley Theriot returned from Colombia on Jan. 1 and began to have seizures. She turned out to have a rare tear in the artery of her brain stem.
She had served in the Peace Corps 10 years ago, in Ukraine, and was still pals with two friends she made there, Lea Kumayama and Maggie Saalfield. They now live in Brooklyn.
When she heard this terrible news, Leah Kumayama came to Ashley's side in a hospital in Alexandria, Va. She was with Ashley and her family when she died.
Leah called their friend Maggie, back in Brooklyn, to tell her the tragic news. And Maggie Saalfield steeled herself to ask what sounds like a pretty nervy question, especially over the phone: Would Ashley's family donate a kidney to someone Maggie knew who needed one?
Maggie Saalfield's husband, Peter, was high school friends with a man named James Driscoll, of New Hampshire. He was 33 and his kidneys were beginning to shut down because of Berger's disease.
Ashley Theriot's family was not upset by the question, even — or especially — at their deepest moment of loss.
"It wasn't awkward or off-putting at all," Ashley's sister told the New York Post. "She would have wanted to help anyone."
The family signed papers for their daughter to become a donor. James Driscoll's doctors gave his medical information to doctors in Virginia. Their organs turned out to be a match, and this week, doctors in Boston put Ashley Theriot's kidney into James Driscoll.
So far, the transplant seems to work. James Driscoll has a new life through the kindness of the family of a stranger.
More than 30,000 transplants were performed in the United States in 2015. Even more lives could be saved if more people made arrangements to be donors when they die, as routinely as they provide for their insurance, funeral, or the inscription on a cemetery stone.
Eight of Ashley's organs have been donated. In her short, brilliant life she traveled to Europe, Thailand, Turkey and many more places.
"We've been joking that he has the most well-traveled kidney ever," said Ashley's sister. "We just hope he's going to be able to live his life to the fullest and maybe even travel the way she would have."