On the cover this issue are two little guys who are very special to me, my nephews, Troupe and Henry Trice. Their journey is detailed in the cover story this issue, penned beautifully by Lagniappe contributing writer Casandra Butler Andrews.

When Troupe, who is now 10, was very young and had dealt with ongoing health issues, his parents, Stephen and Amelie, ultimately found out he had a very rare heart disorder — so rare it usually only strikes one in a million children (or so they were told). There is no known cause, cure or treatment. Troupe’s only option would be to have a heart transplant. As you will read in the story, after knocking on death’s door more than once, he ultimately did receive a transplant. And then another. And he is now doing quite well, although unfortunately their story does not end there.

In this business, we don’t typically tell the stories of our friends or families. We are supposed to always be objective and how can you tell or ask one of your reporters to objectively tell the story of people you love so much? You can’t, but some times their stories need to be told too. And some stories really don’t require much objectivity, just heart, and this one has plenty of that, along with courage, bravery, love, determination and more strength than any parent or child should ever have to muster in their lifetime. So in the interest of full disclosure, I can objectively tell you I have no objectivity in this one. And that’s OK.

Last month, I received a press release saying it was National Donate Life Month, which is described as a celebration commemorating those who have given the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation. The month is also designed to give those whose lives have been saved or healed by a transplant a chance to share their story to encourage more people to register as donors. The Alabama Organ Center was hoping to get a story on it.

I knew if anyone’s story could bring awareness to this process, it was the one that had hit very close to my own home. But I was not sure if Stephen and Amelie would want to tell theirs. It’s obviously not always easy for them to talk about it and most folks don’t really like to have the most personal details of their lives — or more specifically — their children’s spilled out all over the pages of a newspaper.

But when I asked Amelie, she immediately agreed. I got the sense she felt a duty to tell their story to raise awareness for organ donation and hopefully help other families receive the same precious gift of life they had . . . and are actually still hoping for. And it was yet another way for her to express just how grateful she was to the families who had made such a beautiful choice in such a difficult time.

I had not personally seen what organ donation could do for a family until I married into the Trice family. Stephen is my husband’s brother.

When Frank and I first started dating, Troupe had gotten home from the hospital a few months prior after receiving his second transplant. They were still trying to get used to their new normal.

And it wasn’t always a cakewalk, to say the least. It’s obviously a major surgery and it causes other complications that must be addressed. There are strict anti-rejection drug protocols that must be followed religiously – a grueling routine that takes getting used to.

But after the initial adjustment, and a few bumps in the road and trips to the hospital, Troupe began to thrive. His doctors have even told his parents recently, if they didn’t know he was a heart transplant kid, they wouldn’t be able to tell. His new ticker is working just that well.

And though, there is a large scar on his chest, all we see now is a typical 10-year-old boy who my 4-year-old son thinks hung the moon — well, at least when they are not fighting over Skylanders or which cartoons to watch.

Before I personally saw how a transplant can save not just an individual but an entire family, organ donation was not something I really thought about a lot. It was just a somewhat macabre question a crotchety old lady asked you at the DMV. One you probably hadn’t put much thought into or wanted to answer as much as, “Is your weight still the same?” Or at the very least, a question you really weren’t in the right frame of mind to think about after sitting in the notorious hell that is the DMV office.

“Listen lady, I’ve been waiting here for two hours, I don’t want to think about my internal organs or what I plan to do them with them in the case of my untimely demise right now. Why don’t I just kill you and donate yours? Or that a-hole in front of me who didn’t have the right documentation?” As you are escorted from the building by security, the clerk checks no on Organ Donation.

Seriously though, when you do think about it, could there be a more beautiful final gift to pass on?

When I die, they can take whatever they want. After all, I am not going to need any of it, and I like the idea of living on in someone else. Talk about eternal life.

But if you want to be an organ donor (and really, why wouldn’t you want to be?) you need to talk with your family now and express your wishes, so it will be an easy question for them to answer when they are in their darkest moments after losing you.

You can also still tell the crotchety old lady at the DMV your wishes or you can register to be a donor through your state registry. In Alabama, all you have to do is go to www.alabamaorgancenter.org.

The families who made that choice and literally gave their hearts to Troupe have given our family so much more than just an organ. Their gift allowed for birthday parties and soccer games, visits from the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, homework and fights about bedtime. And life to a kid who loves pizza as long as it is covered in Ranch, who has some mad driving skills on his four-wheeler and who has brought joy every day to his parents, grandparents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and just about anyone who has met him.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.