When Cletus Schnieders passed away suddenly, his wife, children and the rest of his loved ones were left struggling to cope with the reality of the situation. He was the rock of the family and life seemed unimaginable without his gregarious personality and enveloping bear hugs.
But it was a choice Cletus made during his time on Earth that would allow him to live on. Cletus was an organ donor and his passing helped save the lives of 50 people...
Cletus' wife, Carrie, shared what happened to her beloved husband on that day with Yahoo News.
"I was in the other room talking to Clete, and I was getting annoyed because he wasn't answering me. When I walked over to him, I realized he was choking. Then he collapsed."
Carrie did her best to revive her husband - but after two agonizing days at the hospital, he was pronounced brain-dead. She watched as the medical staff began poking and prodding Cletus after his passing in an attempt to see if he was a suitable organ donor. Sure enough, Cletus' organs were usable and doctors quickly whisked him out of the hospital room to remove them.
She barely had enough time to wipe her tears when she was greeted by a hallway full of medical staff, loved ones and strangers. They had all lined up to do something LifeCenter Organ Donor Network calls the "Honor Walk."
"It's called an Honor Walk. The breathtaking moment when friends, family, and hospital staff line the halls as a hero who chose to be an organ donor makes their way to save lives. Cletus Schnieders gave the gift of life to more than 50 people through organ and tissue donation... Thanks to the Schnieders Family for sharing this moment with us."
Before sending his organs to strangers all over the country, the team at Mercy West Hospital decided to thank Cletus and his family for his donation with the Honor Walk.
Carrie was blown away by their kindness and appreciation for her husband's generosity, even in death. It was just like Cletus to give himself to strangers who needed a helping hand - something he made a point to do fruquently when he was alive.
After gathering her thoughts and hugging their children, Carrie took to Facebook to share her feelings.
"Today was the worst day of my life. My amazing husband was pronounced brain dead around 9:30. He signed up to be an organ donor, which made this day even more heartbreaking with all of the tests and pokes they had to do on my love.
I know due to his bravery he will give the life to many people... Selfishly I can't see that far ahead and can only go with what I witnessed was done to Clete today...
The Honor Walk was so overwhelming with all of the people who came out to support Clete. I can't believe how many people care about us. The nurses said this is the biggest crowd they have ever seen... Clete is the kind of man I want our boys to become and the kind of man I want our daughter to marry..."
Carrie told Scary Mommy that she was surprised by the large group of people at first. But when she realized just how much her husband's organ did for people across the country, the surprise turned to love.
"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. 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 first several nights I was getting messages from all over the world, even Australia. 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."
In the weeks after Cletus' passing, she was able to meet the person who received his liver, a man named John Mock. Mock told Yahoo News that it felt as though he'd known his donor's family for years.
"After the first two minutes, it felt like we had known each other forever, just like a real family."
Sadly, Cletus didn't have life insurance and now Carrie, a stay-at-home mother, is forced to pick up the pieces. Please consider helping their family or sharing a word of support on the family's official GoFundMe page.