After a Tragic Loss, a Mother Finds Healing through Correspondence

After a Tragic Loss, a Mother Finds Healing through Correspondence
Every Life Has a Story

Mariah Marshall

(December 3, 1997 - January 24, 2015)

On January 24, 2015, Mariah Marshall lost her life in a tragic car accident at the young age of 17 near her home town of Bloomfield, Iowa. Mariah was a junior at Davis County High School and had just completed her CNA certificate. She wanted to become an Occupational Therapist to help patients who had suffered a brain injury.

Mariah was a country girl with an infectious smile that could light up a room, and she never knew a stranger. Mariah’s mom, Melissa, described Mariah as having a genuine heart of gold.

To honor Mariah’s giving spirit, her family decided to donate Mariah’s corneas and heart valves after her untimely death. Mariah’s gifts were also a bright spot in her family’s time of grief. They found comfort knowing that their tragedy would change others’ lives for the better.

Mariah’s heart valves were donated to a three-month-old boy. In a letter to that boy’s family, Melissa wrote, “Mariah had a love for kids that was undeniable, and they were always drawn to her. I was beyond ecstatic that a perfect match was with your three-month-old little boy. I know she would be so proud, as we are.”  Melissa also went on to say, “Please know that it has given my family great comfort knowing that our Miss Mariah was able to help you in your need. I hope your baby boy is doing well and on the way to a full recovery.”

One of Mariah’s corneas was gifted to a 74-year-old man named Dennis. Dennis was so grateful for his newly restored sight, he immediately sent a thank you note to Mariah’s family through the Iowa Lions Eye Bank “Gratitude Is The Best Attitude” correspondence program.

Melissa promptly replied to Dennis with a photo of Mariah and thanked him for taking the time to write. She said she found peace knowing that Mariah’s legacy lives on through the gift of sight. Dennis was so appreciative to hear more about Mariah’s story that he decided to share the following message on Facebook and on a large screen at his church:

“As a result of this young lady’s untimely death and the thoughtfulness of her family to donate her corneas to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, I have a second chance at sight. The greatest gift of all is to be able to see clearly again. I knew I had been given the cornea of a young person because of the beautiful colors I am able to see. These old eyes have not seen colors this bright in my life. This story has to bring a tear to your eyes as it did to mine when I got this photo from the parent of this young lady. What a terrible loss to a family, but a great chance for her to live again through my eyes.”

Melissa and Dennis have continued to exchange letters over the past few years, and Melissa shared that she has found a sense of healing in each letter she receives. Mariah lives on through her selfless final gifts of sight and life to others.