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Home : Community : Newsletters & Stories

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A Gift of Love
By: Cindy Sloan
Guess who went to Washington? Better yet, guess what was sent to the nation’s capitol for the Federal Government’s National Donor Recognition Ceremony in July? It was a “comfort shawl” made from Lion Brand Yarn.

The pale blue and lavender wrap was donated by the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, North Carolina. The recipient was Margarita Cepeda Aguilar, a donor family mother from Connecticut, who was attending the ceremony to honor the nation’s living and deceased organ, tissue and bone marrow donors as well as their families. It was an observance that Margarita would have preferred to miss.

Margarita’s only child, three-year-old Michael, who died in 2002, was an organ and tissue donor.

The shawl that Margarita received was lovingly created by the hospital’s knitting group as part of its Shawl Ministry. Cozzie Watkins, an Organ Recovery Coordinator with LifeShare Of The Carolinas, the regional organ procurement organization, helped to facilitate the shawl donations to local families in observance of National Donate Life Month in April.

Word soon spread and before they knew it, Gaston Chaplain Cindy Sloan, a knitter, was shipping one of the comfort shawls to Washington for the national ceremony. A donor mother from Wisconsin who attended the ceremony is planning to start a prayer shawl ministry for donor family members in her area.

In announcing that the shawl would be presented to Margarita, the session moderator said,

“Chaplain Cindy shipped it. Ruby Bryant knitted it, and Barbie Blackhorse wrote the prayer.  All of them send their love and this message to you:

'We knit this shawl for you, not knowing who you are, just that you are in need. May the love, prayers and best wishes that went into this shawl bring you warmth, peace and comfort.'”

Needless to say, Margarita is deeply touched by the love and compassion shown by a group of knitters she doesn’t even know. Below, are her comments:

Michael José Cepeda Aguilar was born in New York on September 16th, 1999 and was called to heaven 3 years later on Dec. 8th, 2002. He was born with multiple disabilities but still was a very happy little boy. He was always smiling and so competent. I even asked his neurologist once if he was able to cry. He said to me “That’s a blessing; he will cry when necessary.”

A couple of months before Michael died, I saw this movie about a little boy in California who was dying in a hospital because of the need of an immediate heart transplant and another baby’s brain death…. the movie ended where the parents of the brain-dead baby decided to donate the heart to the other baby. His life was saved and both families found comfort through this donation!!!!

I cried with this movie all the way through.

Somehow I identify myself with this family’s waiting for a miracle to happen, for a chronic condition to be cured.  Always hoping for a cure to my son’s condition, I even thought of a brain transplant (there’s not such a thing yet.) I never thought where the brain would come from, but I thought of a brain transplant.

This movie was in my mind at all times for some strange reason. I even said to myself once: "If one day God wants to take my little angel with him, I would consider organ/tissue donation" -- without knowing 3 months later I would have to make the toughest decision of my life.

Donating his heart was a very difficult decision at the time it happened. (I come from a very traditional family in El Salvador, Central America, where organ/tissue donation is not a theme of conversation, a school matter or something on T.V.) There’s no way to know what a 3-year-old thinks about organ donation and I thank God for guiding me to take the decision I took.

My son’s heart valves were transplanted to 3 different children, one of them in California.

I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. 

I even felt guilty at one point.

I miss my son very deeply.

He was my only baby.

But every day, I wake up thinking how beautiful it is for his soul to be in heaven and yet still part of him to be alive on earth. I’m happy for these families who now enjoy their children, thanks to his donation. 

I thought I was on my own after he left but I know somehow he’s still around!!!

I’ve come to understand a lot!

Organ donation is not just what you give.  You receive too.  What you receive is the total blessing of being able to give to others a gift, a gift of life.

When I arrived to Washington I was sad and didn't know what to expect. As the hours went by, I felt at home surrounded with so much love and understanding -- again beyond what words can tell. That beautiful shawl warmed me up so comfortable that night!!!! After crying for some time, when I wrapped myself and went to sleep, believe me when I tell you I could not only feel the softness of the shawl but the softness of the skin of my little one. I even think it smells like him and I definitely want to believe that this was his way to send me a hug from heaven.

I have to say I've found a little piece that was missing in my heart. I found peace and lots of love.

On my way back, I was crying as I saw the lights of Washington from the plane. I felt somehow I was leaving my family, but it also felt great when I realized that just like me, hundreds of families went back home feeling in peace and with lots of beautiful memories to share.

More reading and resources:


Authored by Cindy Sloan

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