Being asked about organ, eye and tissue donation was not something Denise Edmiston wanted to hear as she mourned the loss of her 16-year-old daughter Mandy on Mother’s Day weekend in 2002. Angry and questioning why, Denise recalls her reaction to the woman who approached her: “I almost decked her,” she said. Denise didn’t care about the time restriction on organ, eye and tissue donation. All she cared about was her daughter.

A very short time later, Denise’s sister, a nurse, asked her gently, “Is there anything Mandy asked for in the event of her death?” This reminded Denise of just six weeks earlier, taking Mandy to get her driver’s license, how Mandy wanted to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. But Denise advised her daughter to make a big decision like that when she was older. She wasn’t against the idea of donation, but she knew it was a decision that requires consideration.

Remembering this, Denise decided to honor Mandy’s wishes. “Learning how many people would be helped with her beautiful blue eyes didn’t diminish the sorrow we feel, but it gives comfort in knowing that she lives on.”

Today, Denise is the Executive Director of the Alabama Funeral Director’s Association, which works closely with organ, eye and tissue donation. Her experience donating her daughter’s eyes influences her work daily. “I encourage others to be very, very gentle,” she said, and admits she acts “like a big mother” to those she works with.

To someone considering donating, Denise offers this encouragement: “It’s the most unselfish gift you can give. It’s such a comfort to make that difference in the life of someone and their family.”