Three years after their daughter’s death, Todd and Tara Storch continue to find purpose in their pain.
The Storches looked forward to their spring break ski trip in Colorado. Todd and his 11-year-old son Ryan already knew how to ski, while daughters Taylor, age 13, and Peyton, age 9, were about to have their first lessons. Taylor was such a natural athlete that she graduated ski school on the first day. After lessons were over, Peyton hung out with her mom Tara while Todd, Ryan, and Taylor took on harder runs.
Then, the unimaginable happened. Taylor was going too fast and lost control of her skis, running into one tree and bouncing off of that one into another. Her injuries were many, and the head injury was so severe that even though the doctors performed surgery, they could not save her. Taylor was declared brain dead and taken off of life support the next day.
Faced with the decision to take Taylor off of life support caused the pondering an important question: “Would you like to donate her organs?” Once Todd and Tara answered positively, they were taken on an incredible journey, which led to meeting most of the recipients, as well as starting Taylor’s Gift Foundation to promote organ donation.
Todd and Tara graciously took time to tell Hope about their story, the foundation, and the book they have written (Revell Books, April 2013) to share their grief, hope, and healing with the world.
HOPE: It was three years ago in March that Taylor had her accident. How is your family doing now?
Tara: We’re surviving. Ryan and Peyton are doing well, and we all have come to realize that everyone grieves differently.
Todd: Despite the obvious – that one member of our family is no longer on earth – we’ve come together as a family unit to go on without Taylor the best way we can.
HOPE: Is it getting any easier to share your story with the world, even though it must still be painful?
Todd: From the beginning, God led us to see this as a gift, even though it’s been far from easy. He wants us to share this as a story of beauty and love.
Tara: It becomes a part of you. We had a choice to follow God’s path and make this our life’s work. It’s definitely not always easy, but we know there is purpose in our pain.
HOPE: Something that really struck me while reading your book was that Taylor graduated from ski school in one day. Had it ever crossed your mind that if her instructor hadn’t passed her so quickly, Taylor would not have gone down the run where the accident occurred?
Todd: Actually, no. Taylor was such a fantastic natural athlete and picked up volleyball quickly; she was tall and agile. After the lessons, Peyton was tired and done for the day, but Taylor was just beaming and couldn’t wait to do more.
Tara: We don’t blame the instructor. She’s been doing this for years and we completely trust her judgment. It was a freak thing that she could never have anticipated.
HOPE: Do you still receive signs from Taylor, like the ones you describe in the book?
Tara: All the time. We’ve learned to be open to them. People receive signs from God and their loved ones all the time, but don’t always notice them because of their busy lives. You have to take time to be open to and look for the signs.
Todd: We call these “of course” moments. Something will happen, and we’ll say, “Of course Taylor is with us, watching over us.” God shares these gifts and “little hugs” with us every day; we just have to be aware and accept the joy.
HOPE: Five people received organs from Taylor, and you have been in contact with four of them. Have your heard from the fifth recipient yet?
Tara: We are connected to the organization that has the list of all of the recipients. They have told us that that fifth one was a two-year-old who is now five and doing well. The family is not able to connect at this time, as they don’t want to cause any confusion for such a young child. We completely understand – God will open that door when He decides everyone is ready.
HOPE: In what ways has the Taylor’s Gift Foundation grown in such a short time?
Todd: In April 2010, six weeks after the accident, God made it apparent to me what needed to be done. I began to Google organ donation and made a lot of contacts. This is a subject that should be talked about more than it usually is. We were blessed with a core team of volunteers who have been helping get the ball rolling early on and continue to help us grow. We work on helping donor families, as well as those who are waiting for an organ to become available.
Tara: We’re being led by Godly mentors who help us share our story all over the world. Organ donor registration has increased because Taylor’s Gift is spreading the word. People magazine chose Taylor’s Gift as one of the best new charitable organizations in 2012. Taylor has become the face of organ donation, and I believe she would be very happy that she is making a difference even though she was only here for a short time.
HOPE: Working through such a huge family tragedy, how do you manage to find God in all of it?
Tara: We’re still picking up the pieces and of course even though you are at peace, you still wish your child was here with you. We take twenty steps forward and two steps back sometimes. I talk to Patricia, the woman who received Taylor’s heart, all the time. We also talk to Jeff, who received her pancreas and one kidney, and Jonathan, who received the other kidney and works with us at Taylor’s Gift. Ashley, who received Taylor’s cornea, is a special-needs teen so we stay in contact with her mom. They have all become extended family and such a blessing.
Todd: We are trying to be obedient to God, and this is a part of His purpose for us. When it’s my time to leave this earth and be reunited with Taylor, I want to be able to hear her say, “Good job Daddy, you did it!”
HOPE: How can people help or donate to Taylor’s Gift?
Todd: First of all, have a conversation with your family about organ donation so they know your wishes if anything were to happen to you. Register for organ donation, and spread the word to family and friends so they may decide to do the same. You can go to taylorsgift.org to donate or discover other ways to help. We also speak at events across the country, so check the website to see if we’ll be in your area.
HOPE: What do you hope that people who read “Taylor’s Gift” will get out of it?
Tara: We want them to see how we got through it and found the good through our faith. God is always there, even when you don’t realize it. We came together as a family, but also give each other space when needed to grieve in our own ways.
Todd: We also want family and friends of someone going through something like this to learn to be there for your loved ones. They will need your love, help, and prayers through the difficulties.
HOPE: What advice do you have for other parents grieving the loss of a child?
Tara: Tomorrow will come. It took me a long time to realize that. Don’t have specific expectations of yourself because the phases of grief don’t always come in the same order that we’ve been taught, and sometimes they overlap. Wherever you are in your grief is exactly where you need to be.
Todd: Seek advice from experts or other families who have gone through something similar. And for your loved ones, who want to help, let them know that you know they wish they could fix it and take the pain away, even though they can’t. They just need to love you where you’re at and love you through it.
Tara: Don’t ever feel like you have to be in control. Turn to God, because He is the One in control.
Thank you to Todd and Tara Storch for sharing their moving story with our Hope community. Please visit taylorsgift.org to find out more and order “Taylor’s Gift” (the book). OPI has recently partnered with Taylor’s Gift to create a special Taylor Blue nail polish to benefit the organization, which you can also find on the website!