Donate Life – our journey to the Rose Parade

Donate Life – our journey to the Rose ParadeBy Cyndi Whitehead

News Review Contributor

Our journey started last summer when we applied for our son, Eddie Mason, to have a floragraph on the Donate Life’s Rose Parade float. We lost our son in June of2011 from a kidney disease, 20 days prior to him having a kidney transplant surgery. Eddie was a donor helping more than 40 people with his tissue, bone and cornea donations.

I got the call early in August that Eddie was accepted and would be honored on the float for Jan. 1, 2018: “The Gift of Time.”

Donate Life, a non-profit organization that advocates for organ donation, took care of every detail of our journey.

They provided a beautiful hotel for four nights and we had a shuttle to each event we went to: the brunch, the New Years Eve party and reserved bleacher seats for the rose parade.. They even covered the hotel valet parking.

It began Dec. 29 – we went to Pasadena to work on decorating the Gift of Time float. My husband Mike, Eddie’s daughter Amber Mason and I worked our 6-and-a-half hour shift, preparing the flowers to be placed on the float. If you saw the float, you would see what an endeavor that was. We enjoyed every moment of it and felt very blessed for the opportunity.

The morning of Dec. 30, Donate Life had a brunch, which included a heart-warming ceremony for all of the donor families. I believe everyone in that room was in tears and we all shared something in common – we all lost someone very dear to our hearts and our loved ones would be floragraphs on the float. What an honor!

On Sunday, Dec. 31, we were invited to attend the float judging.

We had no idea what an experience that would be. We were all in tears as this was the first time we had seen the float complete with our loved one’s floragraph on the float. Needless to say, it was overwhelming.

The judges walked around the float with their pads and pens, making their notes as we were perfectly quiet. The judges walked around a second time in tears. As they walked around the third time, they were lifting their sunglasses to wipe tears from their eyes, taking pictures on their phones.

We stayed and admired the float and felt very proud and honored that our son, along with 43 other donors, were being honored. Also – the riders on the float were donor recipients and walkers along the side of the float were live donors. As you can understand, this float meant so much to us and all involved.

That same night, Donate life threw us a New Years Eve party with food, a DJ and dancing. It was an amazing evening as we had met many new friends to share the evening with – Amber had met friends her age as well. It was a great time to enjoy each-other’s company and dance the night away.

I believe everyone in that room needed to let their hair down for a few hours. It was such an amazing evening that we didn’t want to end, but we had an early morning on Jan. 1.

We were up at 5 a.m. and walked to our parade seats. The parade was amazing and beautiful but when we saw the Gift of Time float coming down Colorado Boulevard, we were all crying and hugging as we watched our son, Amber’s daddy, being honored on that float. There really are no words to describe it – overwhelming in the best way ever.

That evening, we met with friends and Amber met with her friends – none of us wanted it to be over. But it was coming to an end.

We will forever hold these memories in our hearts. I believe a lot of healing happened during these four days.

Thank you to Donate Life for making our experience more than we could have ever imagined. We are forever grateful.

Pictured: The late Eddie Mason’s daughter Amber, flanked by grandparents Cyndi and Mike Whitehead, stand below Eddie’s visage on the Rose Parade’s "Gift of Life" float. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2018-01-06