Life saver: ‘Our daughter was such a giver’

From tragedy, the gift of organ donation turned many lives around

(L-R) Susan Dieter-Robinson, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, Abigail Robinson, Tom Robinson (Undated, courtesy photo)
(L-R) Susan Dieter-Robinson, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, Abigail Robinson, Tom Robinson (Undated, courtesy photo)

FOREST GROVE, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’ve driven on Main Street in Forest Grove, you know one tree is not like the others. Donning bright colors, windmills and stuffed animals, this tree has become a landmark.

“My girls met Jesus here, and so, to me this place is very sacred. I don’t think of this spot as tragic. I never think of what happened to them, I think about the fact that they went to heaven here,” said Susan Dieter-Robinson.

On October 20, 2013, her daughter and step-daughter, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and Abigail Robinson, were playing in a pile of leaves in front of their home when a young driver drove through the pile.

Anna, 6, died in a firefighter’s arms at the scene. Abigail, 11, died the next day.

“I look at the tree and I see a rainbow and I think, our girls would be really happy there’s a rainbow on our street,” Tom Robinson said.

Tom Robinson and Susan Dieter-Robinson at their home in Forest Grove, November 4, 2016 (KOIN)
Tom Robinson and Susan Dieter-Robinson at their home in Forest Grove, November 4, 2016 (KOIN)

“I often feel on the 20th there’s a line drawn in the sand,” Susan said. “In our life everything is before the girls went to heaven or after the girls went to heaven.”

They still live across the street from that tree, a tree Tom said is a “symbol of hope.”

It’s hope that love and joy will overcome profound sadness and grief. Every day, Susan and Tom have made a “choice to celebrate them and try and celebrate life,” he said.

Anna, the 6-year-old nurturer, always took special care of her baby dolls and gave her mom long, warm hugs. Abigail had a vivacious personality, hankered for the spotlight and had compassion and generosity that ultimately saved lives.

“They said, ‘She is not going to make it,'” Tom said. “So I said, ‘Well, is (organ) donation a possibility?’ and the answer was, yes, it is.”

“It’s what she’d want to do,” Susan said. “She was such a giver.”

Donate Life Northwest

Today, Abigail’s kidneys are sustaining 2 lives. A young boy received her liver and a child in the Pacific Northwest is able to see through her cornea.

“Most people brag about their kids grades and what they’re doing in school, or going to watch ballet recitals and I wish we were doing that,” Susan said. “But our daughter saved people’s lives and we couldn’t be prouder of her. Sometimes I feel like that trumps everything.”

At a fun run in honor of the girls, a living, breathing tribute arrived — a boy named Christian who is alive because of Abigail.

“We didn’t know we were going to meet him,” Susan said. “We had exchanged letters and we were at that part of the process.”

She looked across the crowd and saw Christian’s mom, who she recognized from Facebook. Christian, she said, “was very spunky and everything that Abigail was.”

Now, Susan and Tom speak with school children about Abigail’s life-saving gift to spark conversation in homes across the area.

“Sharing the girl’s story, through Donate Life, through Love Rocks,” Susan said. “There’s that hope again.”

Love Rocks, which Abigail and Anna loved to make, are now hidden all over the world for people to find.

Love Rocks on Facebook

And they’ve been found in far-flung places: outside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, even at the Great Wall of China. Strangers discovered these hidden treasures that symbolize hope and joy — and learned about the girls who brought love and happiness to the world.

“My daughter’s legacy is something I can’t even scratch the surface,” Susan said.

Susan Dieter-Robinson's daughters made Love Rocks for her wedding in 2011. (KOIN 6 News)
Susan Dieter-Robinson’s daughters made Love Rocks for her wedding in 2011. (KOIN 6 News)

At Love Rocks headquarters, across the street from the rainbow tree, there is a new addition to the family: 10-month-old Alice.

She was born on Abigail’s birthday.

“She’s my blessing, our blessing, she wraps our ache in love,” Susan said. “The ache’s not gone away, she just wraps it in love, she smiles and you melt.”

One day she’ll understand how much her sisters changed the world.

“The amount to which a life can impact the world, 2 lives,” Susan said. “They’ve impacted the world in a way that I can’t even wrap my head around.”