Photo of “honor walk” given to father of three before donating his organs goes viral
A 41-year-old father of three young children lost his life recently, and very suddenly. His family was left to grieve the tragic loss and go on without their beloved husband and dad, but amid the grief, a powerful moment emerged — and now, it’s being shared with the world.
Cletus Schnieders III was eating dinner with his family on June 19th when tragedy struck. He began to choke on his food and at first, his wife, Carrie, had no idea what was happening. “I was in the other room talking to Clete, and I was getting annoyed because he wasn’t answering me,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When I walked over to him, I realized he was choking. Then he collapsed.”
Carrie called 911 and performed chest compressions but after two days in the hospital, her husband was declared brain dead. Clete was an organ donor so this meant Carrie was left with a decision to make — and that decision ultimately saved three lives through organ donation (his kidneys and liver) and touched a total of 50 people in need. On the way to the operating room, Carrie was able to capture the incredible moment when over 150 hospital staff, nurses, family, and friends lined the hallway for an “honor walk” to pay their respects to a man about to save so many lives.
Carrie posted the photo on Facebook where it was quickly shared by sites dedicated to organ donation. The image is obviously very powerful — and Clete’s story is touching so many people whose lives have been affected by organ donation. “The first several nights I was getting messages from all over the world, even Australia,” she tells Scary Mommy. “One man in particular reached out to me from Oregon, he wanted to thank me and Clete. Because of someone like Clete, he received a liver transplant and was able to watch his grandchildren grow up. That story really hit home since Clete also donated his liver.”
“Recipient stories were honestly the only thing keeping me going after those first few days of losing Clete,” she tells us.
Of the walk itself, Carrie says the moment her husband was taken down that hallway won’t ever leave her. “My initial reaction was speechless. I feel like everything paused for a second as I turned the corner and saw all of the people who came out to support us,” she says. “Letting him go at the end of the hallway was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I still have friends and family reach out to me and tell me that being at the honor walk was one of the most amazing yet heartbreaking moments of their life.”
The family has a GoFundMe account set up by a friend to help them as they grapple with the loss of Clete, who was their bread winner. “My husband did not have life insurance so every bit will help us,” Carrie tells us. The couple’s youngest daughter, two-year-old Samantha, has Down syndrome, which means a number of doctor and therapy appointments in addition to the rest of the family’s expenses.
As the Schnieders continue to grieve their loss, one bright spot has emerged. On June 27, the day of Clete’s funeral, Carrie sent a letter to LifeCenter, a Cincinnati organization that helps facilitate organ and tissue donation, and asked for help finding John Mock, the man who received Clete’s liver. As it turned out, Carrie wasn’t the only one looking to connect. Mock had asked his daughter on June 22nd as he was being brought in to surgery to find Clete’s family. “I wanted to thank this family for saving my life — I would be dead without them — and offer my condolences,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
And meet they did.
“After the first two minutes, it felt like we had known each other forever, just like a real family,” says Mock. The reunion went so well that there are plans to spend more time together in October. In the meantime, he and Carrie are keeping in touch with weekly conversations.
If you’d like to donate to help the family you can do so here.