A year ago, my favorite superhero died.

But unlike Wolverine, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, my hero is not coming back.

My dad passed away after a long battle with liver disease on June 8, 2014. He was actually supposed to die three years earlier, but received a last-minute liver donation. Unlike most superheroes, he did not die punching an alien invader or being shot by his arch-nemesis. He was surrounded by the people that loved him most. Maybe my dad didn’t save the world — but he saved my world, over and over again.

His credentials as a superhero are impeccable.

He was the man who taught me how to read.

He was the man who took me to my first movie.

He was the man who taught me to never judge other people.

He was the man who taught me to curse when I drop something or stub my toe.

He was the man who taught me to stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves.

He was the man who taught me how to play basketball.

He was the man who taught me to be stubborn and dramatic whenever possible.

He was the man who, while laying on his death-bed told me I had to take my then girlfriend (now wife) on a weekend getaway. “She’s a special girl, and you need to treat her special. Plus, I want grandkids.”

He was the man who taught me how to run a business.

He was the man who gave me my sense of self-worth.

He tried to teach me to never hold a grudge.

He was the man who taught me that evil only triumphs when good men do nothing.

He was the man who challenged a Hells Angel to a bar fight, after the biker pulled a gun and made unwanted advances toward a woman at the bar.

He was the man who taught me that being yourself is always cooler then being like everyone else.

He was the man who taught me to be quick to anger, but quicker to forgiveness.

He was the man who taught me to question what you are told.

He was the man who taught me that the only way to fail was not to try.

He was the man who once finished giving a speech to some grade school kids while dressed as Batman. Then, while walking back to his car in Batman regalia, he witnesses a purse-snatching, and before he can think, he yells “Freeze” and as the thief turned around, he was in for the surprise of his life — my dad was after him, and Batman always gets his man.

He was the man who taught me that the world needs laughter more than it needs anger.

Most importantly — he was the man who showed me the kind of dad I want to be.

If every day is a battle, then my dad retired with a record of 26,943-1. He was a fighter who never had a cynical bone in his body. To have a positive effect on the world, to leave it a better place than he found it, was all he ever really wanted.

What makes a hero? There are countless cultures throughout the history of our planet — but they all share a similar definition of hero. One who puts others above themselves. One who does something for the greater good. And I would like to take the time to thank the person who put the donor sticker on his ID, and whose liver ended up prolonging my father’s life for three years. Those were the years my sister graduated high school, with my dad cheering on from the crowd. Those were the years I got married, with my dad giving what has universally been described as “the greatest wedding speech I have ever heard.” Those were the years he celebrated his 70th birthday surrounded by family and friends. Those were three years that I could never replace. And I hope that the family of the man who died to donate his liver can find a modicum of solace knowing that the act of being a donor gave me three extra years with my best friend.

And that is why I am a donor. You can become one too: organdonor.gov.

Geoffrey Wood Patterson Sr. lived to be 72 years old. And he managed to cram a bit more than a lifetime in those years. So one could say he had “lived his life” — but anyone who met my father could tell that 720 years wouldn’t have been enough. So to be able to add even 3 years onto his life … words fail me. It is priceless, it is magic, it is science fiction, it is a miracle, and frankly — it’s a goddamn superpower. And it is one that we all share. Please make sure you don’t waste it.

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