From death and despair springs story of hope and happiness

by |
11/10/2011 12:00 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO | Newlyweds Christie and William Mitchell on their wedding day with Irene and Jim Smith.

In October, Irene Smith of Mattituck received a rather unusual invitation.

An upstate couple she’d never met went out of their way to ask her to their wedding, and she quickly said yes.

“I wanted to go immediately,” she said. “I know a lot of people wouldn’t do that, but that’s just me.”

This wasn’t just another wedding. The groom, William Robert Mitchell, carries within him the heart and one of the kidneys of Ms. Smith’s son, Kyle Boyd, who died last year at 27.

“I had to look up the word ‘catharsis,’ because that’s what it meant to me,” she said.


Kyle, a 2000 graduate of Mattituck High School and a trained electrician, “was on a prescription and was partying” just before he died at Peconic Bay Medical Center on Feb. 27, 2010, his mother said. “This is something kids don’t think about.”

After the shock of hearing the news every parent dreads, Ms. Smith was surprised to learn that Kyle had signed on to be an organ donor.

“I would have done it anyway,” she said of offering his organs. “It’s such a good thing to do.”

She later learned that Kyle helped three people continue their lives. In addition to Mr. Mitchell, a woman in her 30s received his other kidney and a teenage girl, just 19, has his liver.

She didn’t know any of the recipients until the invitation came in August for the Oct. 16 nuptials of Mr. Mitchell and Christie Ronan in Bloomingburg, N.Y., in Sullivan County, about 90 minutes north of New York.

“I was delighted,” said Ms. Smith. “I was dealing with all the loss and this was the light I was looking for. It doesn’t ease the pain, but it does make his life worthwhile.”

She was nervous on the drive up with her husband and Kyle’s stepfather, Jim Smith.

“I was very anxious not knowing how I’d be or how I’d deal with it,” she said. But all her anxiety ebbed as soon as she met the groom, she said.

She describes their meeting as “subdued.” When meeting some of the groom’s friends, her husband began to explain their reason for attending but one of them said, “We already know,” Ms. Smith recalled.

She was touched when the newlyweds asked for a picture of Kyle for their home.

“This is a relationship I think will go on,” Ms. Smith said.

So too, unfortunately, will her grief. For solace, she joined a group called Compassionate Friends. Its members, all parents who’ve lost children, meet in East Quogue.

Group member Marie Levine is the author of a book entitled “The Tincture of Time: Restoration After the Death of a Child.” It its pages, Ms. Smith found a quote she turns to when emotional darkness descends.

It reads: “I’ve discovered that grief is like traveling the world. It’s all been seen before — for eons and by billions. But each new visitor, arriving at a well-worn scene sees it with fresh eyes. And in spite of the many descriptions and travelogues written and photographs viewed, fresh eyes discover each site all over again as if it had never been seen before.”

“It’s part of the healing,” his mother said.

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