Nicholas' seven recipients are like many others who need a transplant - a mother who had never seen her baby's face clearly; a diabetic who had been repeatedly in comas; a boy of 15, wasting away with a heart disease, who was only the same size as a seven year old; a keen sportsman whose vision was gradually darkening; and two children hooked up to dialysis machines several hours a week. Then there was Maria Pia, a vivacious 19-year old girl who the night Nicholas was shot was dying too. Now, against all odds, she's healthy, is married and has two children, one of whom is called Nicholas.
These seven people are not rich or famous and their lives are marked by the struggles we all have to face. But they feel they have been reborn. Few potential donors realize what a mighty gift they have in their hands. By one action they can save other families from the devastation they themselves face. With such momentous consequences, donor families often wonder how there could be any other choice.
None of this takes away the pain. The sense that life is missing a vital ingredient is there all the time.
But donating does put something on the other side of the balance. For the rest of our lives we donor families can feel proud that our loved ones saved someone in desperate need when no one else in the world could.
The Bell Memorial
The children's bell tower in Bodega Bay is a magical place. It stands on open ground, a thick growth of cypress trees on one side and green hills on the other. In the background are high dunes and a tantalizing glimpse of the ocean. The tower is 18 feet high, three tubular steel pyramids from which hang 140 bells, almost all of them sent by Italians: school bells, church bells, ships' bells, mining bells, cow bells. The centerpiece is a majestic bell, thirty inches high, from the Marinelli foundry in Italy, which has been making bells for the papacy for a thousand years. Nicholas' name and the names of the seven recipients are on it, and Pope John Paul II went to the foundry to bless it. Whenever the wind blows, as it often does on this exposed coast, the bells chime, sometimes a few at a time, emphasizing the solitude of the surroundings, sometimes an entire orchestra, sounding like happy children at play. Then the sound fades away, and the children are gone.
Although it was inspired by Nicholas' death, the tower was designed to be a memorial accessible to everyone a place where children would feel at ease. Its delicacy reflects both the preciousness and fragility of young life. Many families visit it to give thanks for their children, others find some solace for a loss.
The bell tower was conceived and built by a San Francisco sculptor, Bruce Hasson. It is on the west side of Route 1, 1 1/2 miles north of Bodega Bay.