Today is always one of my favorite days of the year. There's nothing quite as fun as giving 50% effort at work while watching high-quality, meaningful basketball. It's everything fun about sports. But as I settled in for my morning, a tweet from a friend hit me like a punch in the gut.
Nefeterius McPhereson had passed away from abdominal cancer.
If you remember, Nefeterius brought the eyes of America to WVU and more importantly her organ donation cause when the story of her liver transplant from WVU fan Taitlyn Hughes gained national attention. It was the story of a sweet child, an amazing woman and the role that sports can play in bringing people together. The tale was all the more meaningful because McPherson was a Texas native proclaiming her newfound WVU fandom during the Mountaineer's big trip to Austin to play the Texas Longhorns.
This was the tweet that started it all:
— Nefeterius (@Nefeterius) October 8, 2012
In the wake of the post-game attention she was besieged by interview requests from everyone from the Associated Press to the New York Daily News to half the papers in West Virginia. And even with all that she was kind enough to return the tweet of a piddly little nobody blogger from TheSignalCaller.com and talk to me like I was just important as the big guys.
Speaking with her on the phone was an exercise in positivity as I pretended to act like I had any idea how to interview a person and she patiently relayed her amazing story for what was probably the 8th time that day. Over the preceding weeks and months we exchanged periodic tweets, text messages and I even got to interview her over the phone again when she was a guest of President Clements at the game against TCU. We finally met at this past season's game against the Texas Longhorns. She was as delightful and gracious in person as she had been over the phone and on a special game day that meeting stood out as the highlight.
I didn't know her well, but you didn't have to know her well to catch her infectious positivity. I can't express how unbelievably sad I am that such a bright light in this world has moved on. I won't say extinguished because I don't believe that's true. Her story spoke to me in that there was so clearly a larger intention behind everything. She was put where she was for a reason and I can only have faith she was taken for a reason. Her work is not done. I believe there was and continues to be a plan, but that doesn't mean it's not heartbreaking.
I would humbly ask you to do two things. First and most importantly, go register to be an organ donor. Use this link and please do it right now. It's shocking how many people aren't registered and many times for no reason other than they never took the 2 minutes to do it. God forbid the unthinkable happens. That two minutes could mean a lot to someone. Or the unthinkable could happen to another and that two minutes could mean the world for you or someone you love. Register. Please.
Second, please read the story of Nefeterius and Taitlyn. Not because I wrote it - in fact I feel wrong asking because it is my writing. I don't care if you read my writing. I do care that you learn the story of these two amazing individuals & that as many people as possible learn their story. The most depressing thing about death to me has always been the slow fade from consciousness. The way I don't remember my great-grandma much or the way that even my details about grandpa, who I was very close to, have begun to fade and will only continue to fade over time. I can't imagine how that would feel if it were my daughter or my sister. So if everyone can learn their story and keep their memory alive awhile longer, that matters. That's important.
Understand that these were extraordinary people. This was an exceptional woman. A woman who was as positive a person as I've ever encountered. A nonstop advocate for organ donation who never once failed to mention her story without honoring the memory of Taitlyn. And this was a special child. A child who grasped things at a very young age about generosity and caring that many struggle with their whole lives. A child who not only wanted to "make the world better" but took action to do it. The world is a lesser place without these two people in it, but perhaps if we learn their story and honor their memory we can fill that gap a just little bit.
Nefeterius represented the best of Mountaineer fans. Her enthusiasm for life and for WVU were infections and made us proud to call her one of our own. But it wasn't the Xs and Os of the game or the recruiting or the wins and losses - it was just ENJOYING it. I'll leave you with a few of her words that I'll carry with me. First something she told me in that first interview about how her approach to the world had changed in the wake of receiving her transplant gift of life:
"You always hear about Texas bluebonnets and I’d driven by them a million times and the one day I just told my mom ‘stop the car.’ I got out and looked at them, smelled them, took pictures and soaked it all in. It’s the smallest things."
And finally one of her last tweets:
@nurseintime that is so very true. It's amazing how we take so many things for granted. Have a wonderful night. Be blessed!!— Nefeterius (@Nefeterius) March 9, 2014
Take her advice y'all. Smile more. Soak in gamedays. Hug your parents. Hug your kids. Hug your friends. Savor every minute. Life is a gift.
Rest In Peace Nefeterius. Your life was a blessing to us all.