Parents teach their kids how to exist in the world. They show us how to drive, how to be a good friend, how to hold a fork. Mothers and fathers give us insight into their perspectives: what is worth spending time on? What do we value most? But some parents unfortunately see their teaching opportunities slip away…

Facing your own mortality is terrifying, but planning for your kids’ futures when you’re no longer in it takes a different sort of strength. One man embraced the possibility of his own death, and worked tirelessly on a scheme to prepare his children for life without a father…

James Beeching, 36, of Hastings, East Sussex, loved to share adorable photos of his twin toddlers, Isobel and Logan, on social media. His friends and family knew to check James’ feed for hilarious updates about his cheeky little ones.

Daily Mail

James’ friends also knew that despite his silly sense of humor and posts about his kids, he was battling a serious illness. He had cystic fibrosis, a disease in which the lungs become clogged with sticky mucus.

CTV News

But, the realities of his illness didn’t crush James’ spirit. Having been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two, he’d long since adjusted to daily physiotherapy and taking enzymes with meals to aid digestion. His illness didn’t stop James from enjoying a relatively normal, fulfilling life…

James Beeching / Facebook

He built a career in public service as a community organizer and married his sweetheart, Becky. Together, they started a family; a pair of cute twins, a boy and girl, brought them so much joy.

Daily Mail

But just when his life was more full of purpose than ever, his health reached a critical point: James’ body couldn’t fight off infections as well as it used to. Hospital stays increased, and his lung function continued to decline.

Daily Mail

In January 2017, James’ lung function was so poor that doctors took drastic measures. He was assessed for a lung transplant and ultimately added to the waiting list. At any moment, the phone could ring to announce new lungs were on the way.

James Beeching / Facebook

Making the list was a start, but receiving a donor match could take months. While waiting for news — and staring down his potential demise — he made a responsible, but an emotionally wrought decision for his children.

James Beeching / Facebook

James recorded videos for his twins in case he succumbed to his sickness. He hoped against hope that his twins never had to see the tapes, but he knew if he did pass, he had personal things to share with them both and this was the best way to do it. 

James worried that his twins would be too young to process the situation, or even remember him entirely. His videos would be a physical reminder that their father existed and that he fought with every ounce of his strength to stay and be their dad.

James Beeching / Facebook

Soon, James’ health declined to the point where he was in the hospital all the time. He’d adjust to life at home for a few weeks, then be rushed back for intravenous antibiotics. In April 2018, he contracted a serious infection. He feared that he would die while waiting for a transplant.

James Beeching / Facebook

Growing sicker by the moment, a glimmer of hope emerged. The phone rang at last!  A pair of lungs from a potential donor had just become available! James had to act quickly to prepare for surgery. 

One day before the lung donor call came through, James had been admitted to London’s Royal Brompton Hospital. The potential donor was an hour away, at the Harefield Hospital in Hillingdon, a world-renowned heart and lung transplant facility. James was rushed over on the spot.

Hidden London

But in the end, the donor’s lungs were unsuitable. James took the blow gracefully. He knew that this process wasn’t simple. “False alarms do happen,” he said, “so while it was emotional, it didn’t shock me.”

James left the hospital that day feeling strangely inspired to keep fighting. He made a video on Facebook, thanking his supporters. He knew without their support, he would find it hard to keep fighting.

He also took the opportunity to remind people of the importance of becoming an organ donor. He hoped his words would have an impact, since they were coming from a hopeful recipient, after all!

James Beeching / Facebook

Two months after the first, a second possible donor came through and it all started again: Rush to hospital. Wait for answers. Repeat. These lungs were also not suitable. James continued making videos for his kids — they seemed so much more important now…

Less than 24 hours later, the phone rang a third time. Again, the lungs couldn’t be processed. Exhausted, James and his family didn’t know how much more they could take. 

Giphy

“Life became more difficult and my body was really struggling,” he said. “I was needing more and more oxygen and generally finding it hard to keep up.” James spent most of his summer out of the hospital. His body grew more feeble, but he felt glad to be home, making the most of each day with his children.

When the phone rang again about a donor just a couple months later, he kept realistic expectations. Then, they told him to shower and prep for surgery: the transplant was full steam ahead!

James Beeching / Facebook

The struggles of the past year melted away in mere hours. Surgery went off without a hitch! James’ body accepted the donor’s lungs. He could take a well deserved first breath of relief.

Steve Nothin / Flickr

Five weeks after surgery, James returned home to his family. Other than a few minor complications, his recovery was smooth. He said, “It’s almost like when you buy a second-hand car – at first, every little noise makes you nervous, but you do get more used to it as time goes on.” 

James Beeching / Facebook

The online community following James’ story was thrilled. Besides his gratitude to all the supportive family and friends, he wanted to take a special moment to acknowledge one other person: the selfless donor who saved his life.

Just Giving

“There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about my donor and their family,” James said. He never intended to place pressure on those who felt uncomfortable with organ donation to make that choice. But, if he could sway one person to take a leap and register, he could pay it forward.

The New York Times

Because of his donor’s gift, James was able to destroy the tapes he made for his children. Neither he nor they would ever have to worry about losing him again. 

Pearl Lucia Barcoe / Flickr