After a valiant effort by the medical staff at Duke University Medical Center, and despite her tenacity and resolute will after three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, my daughter, Amber Zoe, passed away peacefully Saturday morning, May 26th, in the company of her loving mother, sister, and me.
In her much too brief life Amber touched so many lives, from the West Coast to the East Coast and beyond. From Alaska, Oregon, California and Washington State, to Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, St. Croix, and finally North Carolina, she inspired friends and family with an infectious and indomitable spirit that left a trail of loved ones in her wake. Family and friends were her first priority, not the illness she suffered throughout her life, or the two lung transplants that she courageously endured. And to all those who loved her and were loved by her, she was an inspiration to all of a life well lived. Through her association with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, to being a founding member and Vice President of the Lung Transplant Foundation, and to the love and support she offered to new lung transplant patients at Duke, as well as to all her family and friends, Amber gave so much, and expected so little in return.
In our world today the term “hero” is bandied about much too frequently, diminishing its significance and meaning. Jon Bon Jovi sings, “Everyone’s a hero,” to which I must retort, everyone has the potential to be a hero – but not everyone is. So what is a hero, and how do we define it for us today to celebrate the life of Amber Zoe Wesemann – my daughter, and my hero. Heroes are courageous and brave, they are bold and push out beyond the limitations of life and reality, they are humble and willing to sublimate themselves to something greater than themselves, and finally, they inspire. This was Amber Zoe.
Along her journey Amber made many friends, and in turn lost many to the ravages of Cystic Fibrosis, lung rejection, and other pulmonary diseases, and one of her last requests was that we not forget those who preceded her in death: Jana Sheets, Sarah Giles, Colby Edwards, Haylie Birkhead, Hal Thompson, Dawn Seaver, Fred Krenrich and Aaron Sterling, to name just a few. Always aware of the precariousness of her situation, Amber never let it get in the way of a comforting glance, a vibrant smile, or the warmth of her touch and some soothing and encouraging words to those in need.
Mackenzie Harpine, one of Amber’s best friends from Maine, in a missive she wrote to us from the airport as she was leaving Durham the day before Amber’s passing, expressed better than I am able the importance of Amber in her life. When Mackenzie was about to enter college, she had chosen Simmons College in Boston because that was where Amber was. It was an easy choice for her, she explained. One of the requirements of her admission to Simmons was for her to write an essay on the topic: “Describe a color that means something to you.” Again the choice was easy: “My color was Amber.”
There is so much more that I can say about my beautiful and heroic daughter, and as you read this I’m sure you have your own memories that come to mind. My love for Amber is unyielding, and as long as I live that love will endure. In a letter she left with me several years ago that she made me promise not to open until she had passed, she wrote these words:
Please be strong, hold your head up, and celebrate the life I lived, not the years I have lost. I felt very positive, especially after my second transplant, I could do anything! I accomplished a lot from school, to starting up the Lung Transplant Foundation, to dedicating myself to staying healthy, to working with all the children I loved so dearly. I enjoyed the many vacations I took (Costa Rica, London, France, Mexico, St. Croix, and on), holidays with my family (especially Thanksgiving of 2007), birthdays, riding horses on the beach, moving from Oregon to Maine to Massachusetts to North Carolina, teaching awareness of CF and lung transplantation, to spending numerous hours with the children I nanny for, etc. I have so many amazing experiences that I could spend days talking about, but the most memorable ones were spent with the people I love.
Please come and join us in a celebration of Amber and of a life well lived at the following locations, dates and times:
|June 2nd||Durham, NC: Washington Duke Inn, Vista Room at 5 pm|
|June 9th||Boston area: 11 AM. Tupper Manor, Endicott College, 295 Hale Rd Beverly Ma. Following the memorial service, there will be a celebration of life reception at the same location.|
|June 30th||5pm to 8pm In the barn at the Blue Rooster Inn, 82782 Territorial Rd., Eugene, Oregon|
In lieu of flowers, Amber requested that donations be made to the Lung Transplant Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and/or Dr. Palmer’s Lung Transplant Research Fund.