“In 2017, my son Eric closed on purchasing his first home at the age of 25 — saving pretty much everything he made to buy this home. Eric was so very proud of himself. His journey hadn’t been an easy one, yet he had finally found a space he was comfortable in with life.
Two days after closing, Eric arrived at his dad’s to start his moving adventure. It was cut short as within 10 minutes of Eric’s arrival, Larry, a diabetic for more than 40 years, had a heart attack from which he did not recover. Eric and Larry’s girlfriend were able to revive Larry, get paramedics and have him transferred to the @uihealth. With all of the miracles the hospital tried, and with with heavy hearts, it was time to let Larry go. We were able to donate tissue to help others.
Losing his father was a significant struggle for Eric. Some things he just wasn’t able to overcome, like the pride in himself of purchasing his first home and his father never seeing it. More challenging though was having to remove his father from life support while holding his hand as he took his last breath. It was devastating beyond words for Eric.
As a mother, there is nothing more heart wrenching than to watch your child in pain and be helpless on ‘fixing’ life. Eric and I were very close, and we kept close tabs and we tried to get him help. Many friends and family were there for never-ending support for us. Mental health availability with the qualifications to truly help Eric were non-existent in Iowa.
Months later, Eric moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area. He was able to spend the summer of 2018 with us, getting the help he so desperately needed. He completed an outpatient rehab program, found an incredible PTSD therapist and had registered to finish his degree.
We had made a trip back to Iowa together to clean out his house and get it ready to be rented out. We ran out of time to complete everything so he returned to finish up things such as cleaning out the garage, which held a lot of his dad’s things, sell his dad’s truck and a project car they were both working on.
In the end, Eric made the last trip by himself and I stayed at home. It had been an incredible struggle in so many ways — balancing my love for Eric, helping him, taking care of me and trying to hold on to my job.
One thing that Eric shared with me after his father passed that will always stick with me is, ‘Mom, I don’t want to die, but I don’t know how to live.’ Profound. I understand far more deeply than I could have ever imagined after losing my only child, my beautiful Eric. He stole my heart the minute he was born and continues to share it with me every day.
Eric’s last text to me promised to smile for me every day. Now, these smiles come in the form of Eric’s organ recipients, their families, many friends, and sometimes strangers. But I always look, knowing he is close by, forever.
There is no way to the ease the pain of my losses except with time and knowing the gift of life these amazing men gave to others. Take the time to educate yourself on organ donation. Discuss with your family. Update your wishes so they are noted properly. Life is precious and organ donation is a gift that is truly priceless.
I am blessed to have the honor of three of Eric’s organ recipients and their families and friends in my daily life along with an amazing support system made up of family and many, many friends. Never underestimate a memory, a photo, a conversation, hug, kiss, or an opportunity to have a kind word with others or most importantly, sharing the gift of life. You never know how many more memories you will have the opportunity to create.
Take a quick moment to appreciate life and those surrounding you with their love and support. Create a memory. Make a difference. Smile.”