By: Allison McDaniel
As the festivities of Hanukkah begin this weekend, many families will celebrate the holiday with eight nights of lights and presents that bring joy to children and parents alike. Many others will have a more challenging journey, as they face their first holiday after the loss of a loved one.
Philadelphia native, Betsy Horen, was married to her husband and best friend, Bob, for more than 40 years before he passed away last year. They traveled the world together and were a perfect match. They both worked hard and had successful careers, but always kept a firm focus on living life to its fullest and enjoying every moment – whether it was going to the theater, visiting their time share in London, or going to their synagogue, Beth Zion-Beth Israel (BZBI), where they were part of a close-knit, supportive community.
Although this holiday will be a difficult one for Betsy, she speaks with gratitude about the nearly ten years that Bob was able to live because of one person’s selfless decision to say yes to organ and tissue donation. Bob had been diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein to build up in tissues and organs. The disease attacked his kidneys, resulting in him needing a kidney transplant to survive.
“I feel like we were so lucky to receive the call that there was a perfect kidney for Bob.” said Betsy. “We were also lucky that Bob was healthy for so long and we were really able to celebrate and experience life together. Our lives were for each other, and I am grateful that he was able to live and share so many wonderful experiences.”
Betsy uses the word “luck” often, and expresses a deep gratitude for the life she was able to share with him. Since Bob’s diagnosis, the couple promoted organ donation at their synagogue by hosting The Robert Horen Annual Donor Shabbat, which educated other members about his transplantation journey and the critical need for individuals to register as donors. In addition, Bob spoke in support of donation in the community and at local schools. Betsy also became an advocate for donation during the time that Bob was waiting for his transplant. She began volunteering for Gift of Life Donor Program to give back, and became a huge supporter of Gift of Life’s Howie’s House, a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families.
Since Bob’s passing, Betsy has dedicated an area – a gateway to the Legacy Garden – at the Howie’s House in Bob’s name and has also honored his memory with a memorial paver in the garden. Betsy said, “It’s so peaceful to sit in the garden and to realize how fortunate all of us are, and how lucky the people are that are able to stay at the Howie’s House. When Bob was first diagnosed, we would have to travel back and forth from Philadelphia to Boston for treatments. Because of his restrictive diet, we couldn’t eat at restaurants, so we had to bring containers of food with us. Going through it, I understand how the Howie’s House really gives people peace of mind.”
Religion has played a major role in Betsy’s life, and it will continue to this holiday as she navigates it without Bob. She proudly describes the numerous heartfelt dedications that she has made in his honor at their synagogue. Her goal is to dedicate a plaque on the seat where Bob always sat at BZBI – right next to her.
Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 41 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need. Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 40,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.