It is in giving that we receive.

A tribute from Lisa Mitchell Parker, Katherine's mom

Our daughter, Katherine, was our light and the eldest of our children. She died unexpectedly in September 2020 at the age of 22, just as she was planning out her masters degree in social work, and singing again—her first love and greatest joy.

Her father, her two younger brothers, friends, family and myself, her mother, were in shock and remain grief stricken. We miss her peals of laughter, her squeals of joy over cats, corgis and all things Harry Potter. We miss her amazing singing voice, guitar and ukulele playing. We miss her friendship.

Katherine died on a day our church (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) celebrates nationwide called “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday. We honor the commitment we make to consistently do good works in our communities for others, by doing projects together, big or small. We wear bright yellow shirts with “God’s Work, Our Hands” printed on them.

In 2020, we did these projects separately-but-together due to COVID-19, by doing them in our homes in our shirts, and dropping off the boxes of finished work to designated areas. Katherine needed a new shirt that year and asked me to get one. I did, and because we were extra careful with COVID-19 safety, I left it for her on our porch in a bag.

Weeks later she wore it that Sunday doing her projects as we did ours separately, and people all across the country did theirs. Later that evening her heart stopped suddenly, for no reason we could determine. There was no way to revive her. She was still wearing the shirt “God’s Work, Our Hands” as people worked on her.

She was wearing it when the medical examiner told us she had registered to be an eye, organ and tissue donor with Gift of Life Michigan. In that moment, I realized the fullness of what she was doing, the complete giving she was ready to do when the time came and that she would be able help people see, and many other things because of her selflessness and love for others. I remain in awe of my daughter and am so proud of her.

We have received letters and calls already about some of the people she has been able to help so far, and there will be more to come. It brings us such hope and joy out of our greatest tragedy to know that she is here in the world working to do good, even now.

I encourage everyone often to register as a donor because it truly is the greatest gift, and it brings such love to so many families in need, including the family grieving. Hope in darkness is a terrific legacy.