“How are you?” Lucas asked me. Often.
“Well, let me tell you about this guy…” I would answer. Often.
That’s just who I am.
When I finally got around to asking how he was, I would be humbled by the answer.
“At the hospital, doing dialysis. I’m fine. How’s Sally?” Lucas would redirect.
Why? Because he’s a sweetheart. Because he was truly, deeply, a self-less person.
I say, “was” because Lucas died on Wednesday. That was yesterday; how is it that I heard the news over a day ago? I’m still trying to process this.
Lucas and I only met in person once, in 2015, when he and Lilly visited Dallas. They had a wedding reception to celebrate their love. Lilly surprised us all by wearing her wedding dress; she had led us to believe that she didn’t have room in her suitcase for it! Lucas hugged me like we were old friends; we had met on Skype, just like he had met Lilly. We had messaged on Facebook. Who cares that this was the first time that we stood face-to-face? Lucas’s love wasn’t limited to people who were in the same room.
Lilly knew that Lucas had a chronic, terminal disease soon after she met him on Facebook. At that time, she was in Dallas, Texas and he lived in Canberra, Australia. He was very open about his medical issues. I really loved his openness, and Lilly did, too. His openness was part of what she fell in love with. Anyway, his medical condition was such that he knew that he’s need an organ transplant within the next 10 years. The heart wants what the heart wants.
And, Lilly knew that she could deal with hospitals. She had been a photographer for Logan’s Legacy, a group of special people with huge hearts: they comfort grieving parents and take pictures of precious babies who never had a chance to experience the world. Through this work, and seeing the parents who longed for even a few minutes with their children, Lilly understood that every moment is precious. Even a few days with her beloved was worth any pain that she might experience.
And the prognosis for Lucas was at least 10 years; heck, with a transplant or two, he might outlive all of us.
Only, the doctors who said that, were wrong. Lucas’s lungs were weak, and he applied for the transplant list last year.
And was denied.
His body was too weak for the operation and he might not survive it, the doctors said. Plus, there aren’t enough organ donors.
Lucas could have curled up in a ball and lamented his fate. Instead, he and Lilly set out on a quest to solicit more people to sign up for organ donation. They volunteered to photograph anyone on the transplant list or who had transplants. The plan was to compile the pictures into a coffee table book to raise funds for the cause.
But he was too sick. He was in and out of the hospital. He continued to ask how others were doing and to work as much as possible, whether at his day job nursing or his other job as photographer. In every picture of him, whether taken by another photographer as a test shot or a selfie with his bride, he is smiling. Rarely would he let the world know how much he was hurting.
Lilly tried to smile, too. They were foster parents for kittens; they adopted a 3-legged dog; and they joked about how all the animals passed wind.
I can’t believe that vivacious young man is gone. I can’t believe that the 10-year-minimum that he was supposed to have with Lilly, was cut so terribly short. They had barely a year together as a married couple.
Even a day with one’s soul mate is worth any amount of pain, I’ve heard. To have a year together, they were blessed. And I would bet good money that Lilly would do it all over again.
You can read more about Lilly and Lucas (Mallie and Matt, to the rest of the world), in this article from a year ago (shared with permission from Mallie): http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/matt-and-mallie-taylor-to-hold-photoshoots-for-those-in-need-of-organ-donations-20160831-gr5ew5.html
If there is but one thing you get from this tragic love story, Lilly and Lucas would want it to be: Donate your organs.
For me, this story is also about carpe diem. If you love someone, spend as much time with him/her as possible. Savor the good times. Laugh about cat farts in the bad times. Smile as much as possible. When you hurt, find a way to help others.
Lilly, I love you!
PS On Sunday, we will return to our regular programming.
Everyone loves an Aussie Man!
Lilly was a radiant bride!
Lucas and me at the wedding reception. (It had a Hawaiian theme, which is why he is wearing a lei.)