Eric Alterman Ian Besner
Four-year-old Jordan Drake is a real, live miracle. Two years ago, she had a heart transplant that saved her life. Now she is running around, living a happy childhood. A vital part of the miracle that is Jordan Drake is another child, Lukas Clark, who tragically died at just seven months because of child abuse committed by a babysitter’s boyfriend. Lukas’ mother, Heather, chose to donate her son’s liver, kidneys and heart. As a result, three children received the gift of Lukas’ life. Little Jordan Drake received his heart. Watch below as Lukas’ mom hears, for the first time, his heart beating strongly inside of Jordan, reminding her that her son is still acting in this world. “He did more in 7 months in life than I’ve done in 25 years of life.”
Last week, my heart was heavy as I went to take part in the FDNow 5K Run/Walk in memory of Eric Alterman, a Ramat Shalom teen who passed away last summer. While Eric’s parents, Carol and Steve, did donate his organs and people have been saved by Eric, I arrived at the 5K last Sunday morning, overwhelmed with grief. I had known Eric for several years, officiated at his bar mitzvah, been with him and his incredible family through the ups and downs of his illness. We knew that he was facing many challenges, but Eric was larger than life, loved and extremely strong. His passing was tragic and this past Sunday morning all of the emotions associated with losing him came back to me. However, as I stood at the starting line, surrounded by so many people, something shifted. In the crowd of runners and walkers, all of whom had donated to fund much needed Familial Dysautonomia (FD) research, I felt the heartbeat of Eric. In the sounds of the sneakers hitting the pavement, the rhythmic breathing of the runners and the cheers as people crossed the finish line, I heard Eric’s heartbeat. My grief turned to awe as I appreciated that this group of runners and walkers was part of the miracle that is Eric. He lives on – not the way we wanted him to be here – but in a way that is transforming the world for the better. Like little Lukas, Eric, in his short life, did more than most people who live long lives. His organs have saved lives and his memory is going to transform the lives of those living with FD.
As a community, we have lost too many of our kids. This coming Sunday, we gather together for the annual I Care I Cure 5K Run/Walk at the BB&T Center. I Care I Cure was created by Ramat Shalom members, Beth and Brad Besner, in memory of their son, Ian, an amazing kid who grew up here in our congregation. Tragically, Ian passed away as a result of the treatment he was receiving for pediatric cancer. I was lucky enough to know Ian and was looking forward to celebrating his bar mitzvah, which we were beginning to discuss when he got sick ten years ago. This Sunday, I encourage you to join me at the I Care I Cure 5K and experience the miracle of Ian Besner. While we all wish that Ian, who would have turned 21 earlier this week, was with us, the energy at the starting line of the race, the comradery along the course and the opportunity to learn how I Care I Cure and Ian’s incredible legacy are saving lives – all of these things are miraculous. When you take part in the 5K, if you listen closely, you will be able to hear Ian’s heartbeat. While you might not have known him, when you join me on Sunday morning, you will experience his essence and the good he is bringing into so many lives. Please, register today by clicking HERE (if you do so, please pick up your race materials Sunday morning, not tomorrow).
May each of us do our part to make certain that Ian and Eric’s memories continue to serve as incredible blessings.