Our oldest daughter Taylor has been buried. She was 13.
The world as I knew it is over. Nothing makes sense. Up is down. Go is stop and left is right.
I have no control.
On the first day of our family ski trip, Taylor, my son and I went on one last ski run down the mountain. My wife Tara and my youngest daughter stayed back for hot chocolate and rest. With the ski lodge in sight and one last run to finish Taylor slipped and my son and I saw her go into the trees. That accident led to her death and the end of the world as I knew it.
Later in the hospital, after we knew that we had lost our sweet Taylor, a question was asked: "Would you be willing to donate Taylor's organs?" Never did I think that our near immediate answer of, "Yes... of course," would lead to a new chapter and a new life for our family and me.
I describe knowing that Taylor's organs would help save and improve other's lives was a spider web of hope -- sometimes the only thing I could grasp during the darkest of moments. One of those moments led me to do a Google search on organ donation. I remember reading the April 2010 annual Donate Life report that described that only 37 percent of the adults in the U.S. were registered as organ donors and that my home state of Texas was near the worst of the states with only 2 percent registered. It made me mad. It was like the pilot light in me now had fuel to burn and an engine began to start.
I remember thinking, "We can help get more people registered." It was in that moment a new world was about to be shown to me: a purpose-driven, prayer-led road paved with struggle and sacrifice, but a road that had inspirational views and led to a place called hope.
Hope is a very powerful thing, and as a father that has lost a child, sometimes it is the only thing. I began to realize that with my business and marketing background, I could help. Within weeks after Taylor's funeral, I filed the appropriate paperwork to being what is called Taylor's Gift Foundation.
Deep down, I knew that God had given me the talents, skills and network of people that could help build a charity, a foundation that could help many people across the nation. I gathered a group that knew me from all aspects of my life; personal, close friends, business associates, family and community leaders and shared them my plan to start Taylor's Gift Foundation. It would require me to resign from my current job as a Vice President of a consulting company where I traveled over 125,000 miles a year, made a great income and loved my clients and coworkers. It would require prayers, deep commitment, determination, lots of help and guidance. I asked the group for their thoughts, their concerns and to call me out. Specifically to tell me if I was just a father in deep grief that was clinging on to memory of my daughter -- in essence, call BS on me.
The entire group realized that this decision was a discernment process for me. Not just taking on another job or weighing out the positives and negatives of the situation. This was the mission I had been called to. Everyone gathered at that table knew this was exactly what was needed.
In a few short years, our foundation has volunteers all over the country, has won awards, has garnered millions of TV and radio impressions through public service advertisements and helped Texas and other states register thousands of new donors. But most importantly, is helping change the conversation about organ donation. Our story has helped other realize that organ donation isn't about death, but is about life. It is a small way to leave the world a better place than we found it and in essence, is the definition of what we call "Outlive Yourself." The U.S. now has more than 40 percent of adults registered, and Texas has registered nearly 3,000,000 people since April 2010 and 2 percent is now nearly 21 percent.
Our family is blessed. We have connected with four of the five recipients of Taylor's organs and we have a special name for our new family members:Taylor's Keepers. I'll never forget my wife telling me she wanted to hear Taylor's heart beating again once we made the decision of organ donation and that request and prayer was answered when we met Patricia, and listened to her chest through her own nurse's stethoscope. I will never hear the sound of a heart beat the same again.
I was made to help people and give back. My world was changed when we lost Taylor, but it has opened a door to a new world for me and my family.
That is truly Taylor's Gift.
Todd Storch with his wife Tara share their journey in the newly released memoir, "Taylor's Gift." They are the founders of Taylor's Gift foundation. For more information visit www.TaylorsGift.org.