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Paula Quam column: A humble hello, a heavy-hearted goodbye

This wasn't how I thought things would happen. You see, my role as editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune is being expanded to include Perham and Wadena, and my first day on the job as the new editor for the Wadena Pioneer Journal was last Monday, A...

This wasn't how I thought things would happen.

You see, my role as editor of the Detroit Lakes Tribune is being expanded to include Perham and Wadena, and my first day on the job as the new editor for the Wadena Pioneer Journal was last Monday, April 17. I had planned on writing a big "hello, so happy to be here" sort of editorial. I thought it would be light, optimistic ... all the things you'd expect from somebody coming in to help lead the way through new times. Fate had other ideas, though.

Instead, I didn't even show up to work on my first day. I spent it sitting in a packed gymnasium saying goodbye to my 16-year-old nephew, Jacob. I found myself on the other side of the news, as authorities identified the Henning teenager killed in the semi-car accident as Jacob Quam, or as I sometimes called him as I rustled his hair, "Jakey." A funeral for a kid that I and so many others loved was not what I expected for my first day in Wadena. I wasn't prepared for the idea of having to say goodbye to Jake-nobody was.

Jacob was a gift-he always had been. He was a gift to his parents, who never had any other children. He was a gift to his grandparents and extended family. (In fact, when he was little, his Grandma Quam taught him that when people asked him what his name was, that he should say, "My name is Jacob, but my grandma says I'm almost perfect.") He was a gift-one we never thought we'd be giving back so soon.

But after his accident, Jake wasn't done giving ... not yet. When he got his driver's license only months prior, he checked the "donor" box. His last gift to the world would be life-changers for people he would never meet. His eyes were donated to a blind man, the skin from his long, Quam limbs to burn victims and his heart to somebody who literally received the gift of life. Jake was truly one of the sweetest, most caring young men you'd ever meet, too, so whomever got his heart really got a good one.

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This isn't a plug for organ donation. It isn't for me or anybody else to tell others that they should do the same-that's a personal choice that should come from within-but we can't help but be so proud of Jake's decision. At his wake and funeral, his fellow basketball players and other friends and family wore "Save a Life" organ donation bracelets to honor him and what he'd done.

Nobody will ever know how much thought he put into it as he checked that box ... probably about the same as you or I would, because nobody sees this coming.

Nobody expects they're going to be randomly struck by a semi on a seemingly normal day and that within minutes you wouldn't need your organs anymore. But that's the thing-life doesn't care what you expect and what you don't. All we know is when the time came for Jake to make that decision, he stepped up like the great kid he was and the young man he was becoming. He chose life-it was such a Jake thing to do.

Related Topics: WADENADETROIT LAKES
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