Now you notice….

Have you noticed after a major or tragic event in your life how things that have always been around you are now standing out more vividly? The same event that happened to you has been happening all around you the whole time.

Since Richie’s accident, I notice every single train. I lived in town for 8 years before his accident. I barely ever noticed the train blaring it’s horn when it went through. After the accident, I heard it every single time. I never noticed them on TV. Now it seems every show I watch has a train somewhere in them. Even stupid Disney Channel has some stupid Choo-Choo song that seems to get stuck in my head and propel me into a horrible day. Trains, trains and more trains!

Richie was life-flighted after his accident and the room he was in was right at the heli-pad. When we were sitting beside his bed, the choppers wold land and I would wonder if the person in them were worse off than Richie. They seemed to never stop coming. One after the other. Jeff has sense told me that it wasn’t as many as I thought but to me, they seemed to constantly land outside the window. Now, every time I hear the familiar sound of a helicopter, I get chills. I don’t even know if it is a medical one or not, I get chills. And I seem to hear them constantly. I remember as a child when I would hear one, I would look up to the sky in amazement to see what they looked like, where they were going. Now, I try to close off my ears and wait for them to just pass over.

Ambulances. The one thing about the ICU waiting room at Atlanta Medical most may not know is that it right above the ambulance entrance for the emergency room. I wonder if they thought about this design flaw after they built it. All night long we heard ambulance after ambulance arrive. If we went outside for fresh air, that was all we would see and hear. Now we have all noticed ambulances in our life. Hard not to with the bright lights and screaming sirens but now….. Now when I hear them I wonder if it is someone’s child in there dying? Is the person in there a mother, father, brother. IS the person in the ambulance there because of an accident, heart attack or just a simple medical issue,. Is there someone rushing to the hospital praying for the best but preparing for the worst? When I hear the scream of the sirens now, I send up a prayer for the person taking the ride and for the family that will follow behind.

I never noticed how many of the TV shows I watch have had a story line on it. I do not ever remember ER having as many stories on it as Grey’s Anatomy. The news seems to featuring a story almost daily. My FaceBook feed always has stories on it. Even my soap opera had a whole storyline for weeks on Alice the maid needing a heart and how she got one. Organ Donation everywhere!

What about shows with car crashes in them? How many times have I watched a movie or show that had some really cool car crash that I thought was out of this world? Now I cannot watch them. The new Furious movie every one is talking about… WILL NOT be seen by me or in y house. Sometimes I make Jeff or Will watch a movie before I do just to see if it has a trigger in it for me.I cannot stomach parts of movies where the victim is laying in the hospital bed with their head bandaged and all the machines. Sometimes if I watch them because I am that invested in my show, I will have nightmares for many nights after and have extremely horrible days

I never noticed any of these things before like I do now. I have to takes breaks from TV and social media. I spend days where I do not go anywhere because of sounds around me. I will purposely go 5 miles out of my way to keep from going near a train track or hospital. We used to got to Jackson all the time to eat. Now I avoid it as much as possible because the train tracks run along side the road we take to get here and the train is always, ALWAYS coming by. I have been told it will get easier in time. I do not see that, but I pray everyday that it does.

Realistic Relationship With My Son’s Recipients

Since I have met two of Richie’s recipients, people have been asking me how it is. Have I talked to them lately? Have I seen them? What is going on with us? I do not think they know how hard it is to answer these questions. I have never been in this position before.

Let me start with my relationship with Morgan. She is a tissue recipient who is my son’s age. Meeting her was like meeting someone who had been his friend for ages. We laughed, talked and cried. I feel like she is one of the many kids that we have come to meet with all of our children. We are lucky that our children’s friends are ours and we call, text and socialize with them also.I call all my children’s friends my “kids”. Morgan fit right in. I text her time to time and check on her. I will send her messages of love and support if I know something is coming up for her. The relationship is easy going and I think of her as one of my “kids” I don’t get overbearing with her and watch her live her life. I smile when I see pictures of her doing things she may not have been able to do before her gift. I laugh at her silliness on Instagram. I am very fond of her and look forward to watching her blossom in life.

Lance. Lance was 68 when he received my son’s heart. And before you think anything about his age, let me tell you. Age means nothing to me. If he was 107, 53 or 15, I would still be proud of the person receiving the gift. My relationship with Lance was a tough one to navigate at the beginning. Nothing to do with him or the person he is, it was me and all my nerves and thoughts. When we received the call that we were going to meet, I had two weeks to prepare myself. I was worried that he would not like me. I was worried that I would not like him. I had done some research on him and knew that he was a very successful businessman. I knew he had traveled the world.Did I mention that he is originally from up north? How was this man going to fit in with a bona-fide southern stay at home Mom? I called a friend of mine who had met him when her daughter was at Emory waiting on her heart gift. I cried to her, “Debbie, you have met him! How is he going to fit in with us? We like to have bonfires and play in the mud!” She laughed and just told me I was silly. I asked my friend Tonya how she got over her nerves when she met her son’s recipient. She said they all just vanished when you see the person smiling. Well, me and my bundle of nerves, fears and anxiety met Lance. It was easy and smooth and we talked as if we knew each other for ever. He told me about his story, his life and what he is doing now. I left happy and looking forward to where we would go from there. Over the next few days though, I had to catch myself. I kept wanting to call him and ask him if he was ok. Had he ate a good breakfast? Did he take his meds? Had he made poopie-doodle? I felt this overwhelming urge to Mother him. This started me having a few days of turmoil and trying to figure out where do I go with him? He was 68! Not 20. Even though he had my child’s heart, I was not his mother. Nor did it give me a right to mother him, He has a wife to do that. (BTW, I LOVE her!) He didn’t need me smothering him. I knew he was fine and taking care of himself. And the age thing certainly did not make me want him as a Father figure. I had one of those once and it didn’t work out. So where was I to go. We exchanged emails, cards and phone conversations here and there. We just naturally fit into a comfortable friendship. We are still, or better yet, I am still navigating this life and relationship I have now. I like where it is now. We are in each others lives with an understanding that we have a long time of learning about each other. We do not have to rush it all in a week.

I must say, seeing pictures of Lance with his grandchildren playing soccer in the yard, reading them books cuddled on the couch or like yesterday’s picture of waking up with his grandsons and all of them including Lance having bed head, makes me smile and laugh and think how awesome it is. How awesome is it that my son gave this family many more years of memories? I smile at the pictures. Sometimes I have tears of joy from them. When Lance calls or emails to tell me that he is going on a trip with his family, I get excited as if it is me going too!

I have made it clear to both of them what I DO NOT WANT from them. I do not want them to feel as if they owe our family anything. I do not want them to thank me for caring out the wishes my son had already made clear. I do not want them to feel as if they have to include us on anything. This was their gift from my son. Not me. I do however and I have made this very clear to them, want them to do live, laugh, love and do very silly things. I want them to experience all that life has to offer them. Time on this Earth is numbered and they need to have all the exciting and adventurous times they can. Lance said once, I am going to take care of this heart and protect it. Well that is all fine and dandy but is he gets the urge to jump on a skateboard and try to do a trick, I want him to do it! LIVE! Do something they have never done before! I want Morgan to get married and have tons of babies! I want her to go on trips to exotic places. I want to Lance to build a fort in the dining room with the grand babies. I want him to be at their graduations. I want him to dance in the rain with Mary! LIVE!!!!!

There are still days where I feel an overwhelming urge to call and check on him like I do my living children. On those days I just send him a short message saying I am thinking of him. I do this with Morgan too. I will probably always do this, But it is ok. They have both figured out by now that I have a little crazy in me. And that is quite alright!


Meeting Morgan

I would like for everyone to meet Morgan! Morgan is quite special! She is a tissue recipient from my son Richie. I was privileged to meet her and her Father, Rodney, Saturday. She is a very lovely, bright, funny and just adorable young lady. She has seen both sides of organ donation. Shortly after she received her gift from Richie, her fiance was in an auto accident. He passed away and his family made the decision to give the gift of life. Jeff and I immediately felt a bond with her just from the letter we received. After we met her, it was sealed! We have made plans for the future with her and look forward to being a part of each others families. And look forward to watching her outrun and jump everyone around her!

I was going to write a long story all about Morgan and then I decided that I would use this time now that I have caught your attention to talk about tissue donation. Most people think of organ donation as just the major organs. Heart, kidney, liver, lungs etc. It is more than that. Donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and even save lives. Unlike organs, tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period of time for use in burn cases, ligament repair (as in Morgan’s case), bone replacement, etc. Each year, lifesaving and life-enhancing tissue is provided by approximately 30,000 tissue donors. One tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people.

It is very rare for a donor family to meet a tissue recipient. I am blessed that we were able to meet Morgan. She is just as special to us as Lance, who received Richie’s heart. I have learned from talking with people that most do not even know of tissue donation. They are amazed at all that can be “recycled” from the human body. Meeting Morgan has given me a spark of sorts, I have been very vocal about organ donation since our son’s passing. Now I am going to get to work on thoroughly educating myself and become a voice for the “lesser” known donations.

I am proud of my son for saving the lives of people in need of a heart, kidneys, liver and tissue recipients. Through our pain of losing such a wonderful young man way too soon, other families have hope. Lance is going on a cruise next week with his Grandchildren. Morgan and I will be walking our butts off together this weekend! And my son is smiling down on us all, LIKE A BOSS!

Jeff, Myself, Morgan and her Dad Rodney

Jeff, Myself, Morgan and her Dad Rodney


LANCE! That is the name of the man who received my son’s heart. I met him Saturday. I met the man who has Richie’s heart. Very proud and powerful to be able to say that. The journey to get to this meeting has taken a year. I will start at the beginning and jump to the end. Well, hopefully not the end but a new beginning.

Shortly after Richie’s death, I wrote a letter to each of the recipients I knew about. I was sent a letter that was dated on Valentine’s day from a man who received his heart. It was a very lovely letter letting me know a little about his life and how he was doing. This letter was simple yet powerful at the same time. It simply let me know that my son’s heart was still beating. In the letter he stated that he would like to know more about my son so I wrote him back and sent him pictures of Richie. We then sent a few more letters. Exchanged Christmas cards. And then, I got the call from Erica. She said it so nonchalantly, “Would you be interested on meeting Lance?” Of course!!!!!!! So we set it up. We would meet in two weeks.

For two weeks, I think I felt every emotion known to man. Nervous, scared, anxious, excited, you name it, I felt it. I asked a friend of mine who had met her son’s heart recipient what I should ask, say or do. She said just go in and it would come to us. I even asked her what do I do if he doesn’t like us. Or better yet, what if we don’t like him? What if I just cry the whole time? (since I have become a crier) Should I bring him a gift? What do you bring a 68 year old man with a 20 year old heart? Do I take him a We Came As Romans CD or what? Just WHAT IF??????????

Well, Jeff and I went to meet him. We were nervous. I could see him walking down the sidewalk to the building and just felt overwhelmed. Thank God Erica stalled him a minute in hall before bringing him in. I needed to catch my breathe. Then he walked in. All I could do was hug him. This man was alive and breathing. Out of death came life. My son’s death was not a waste. His death made this man be able to hug his wife, talk to his children and play with his grandchildren. An entire years worth of grieving and pain and why’s went away. I instantly felt a sense of peace. Then this man looked at me and smiled. I don’t want to say that I saw Richie in the smile, but I just felt him in the smile. We sat at a table, the four of us and Erica and talked of each other’s stories. I learned of his illness and recovery. He heard of Richie’s accident for the first time. It was not uncomfortable. It felt as if I reconnected with a friend or relative that had been away for a few years.

After the meeting we went to lunch. Jeff and I followed them to the restaurant they had picked out. On the way there, I asked Jeff how he felt. All he said was, “I like that man.” For a man of few words, that was a lot from Jeff. What I noticed most was the look of peace and calm that had come over him. He didn’t have that crinkle in his forehead that appeared the second we got the call over a year ago. He looked like he had even gotten a few years younger.

Lunch with Lance and Mary was great! We learned more of each other! And let me tell you, I LOVE his wife. She is the sweetest lady! I kept thinking the whole time while talking to her how my daughter would like her. She was just the picture of elegance, grace and beauty. You know how you meet someone that you just know that whether you are a millionaire or a homeless man they would be your friend? That is Mary. Lance is just simply wonderful. He is smart, successful and down to earth. He is funny and witty. He let me feel his pulse and just feeling the beat, beat, beat against my fingers was miraculous to me. And I still can’t get over his smile. Of all the things that I learned of him that day, his smile is the best.

Saturday I met the man that has my son’s heart. Saturday I hugged part of my son. Saturday I made a new friend. Now over the next few weeks, months and years, we will find where we fit in each other’s lives. All that matters to me is that someone is able to smile with life even though my son is not here anymore. A smile still shines on.

The gift of life

I have often been asked why I share Richie’s story. It is for many reasons. I am not going to go into all of them now, but one of the main reasons is to advocate organ donation. My son lost his life, left this earth and our family. But through his selflessness, many others were given the chance to live. Live full, productive lives. Isn’t is amazing at the science of it? Marvelous in fact! Doctors can take a heart that has stopped beating and give it to someone else and it beats again!

Even though I am deep in grief and pain with Richie being taken too soon from us, I am so glad that he was able to help save lives. He kept others from feeling the pain of loss we are. He is a hero in my eyes. A giver of life after death. Richie’s heart still beats!

Please talk to your family about organ donation. Go sign up to be a donor. Give the gift of life!

Remembering his gift

A month or so my Aunt Judy was digging through some old papers of hers and found a poem. She called me and when I answered, I noticed her voice was very shaky. She said,”Punkie, I don’t know where this poem I have found came from but let me read it to you.” So she read the poem and we both cried. This poem was called To Remember Me. At the time she found it, I needed it most. I told her that I would get a copy of it later when I saw her. Things happened and I forgot about the poem. It amazes me that a poem that touched me so deeply, just as easily slipped out of my thoughts. While I was on the computer trying to find something fitting to post about how my son is a hero in my eyes for saving lives after his life ended, I found the poem Judy had shared with me.

I would like to share with you all the poem written my Robert Test. It is amazing and fitting and I almost feel as if I can hear it in Richie’s voice.


Hope for Kayla

There is this girl who I have never met yet I pray for her everyday and night. There is this girl named Kayla who has touched my heart and has helped me heal. Let me tell you about this wonderful young lady!

Browsing through Facebook one night, I came across this page that my friend Carol had liked. It was called Kayla Montiel is our Hero. Curious, I clicked on it to find out why she was someone’s hero. I read how this young lady had a heart transplant at a young age and after 22 years with that heart, needed a new one and also a kidney. I read on more of her page and decided to message her mother Debbie for Kayla’s address. I wanted to share my story of my son and how he had given someone like her hope. I bought a card and wrote Kayla about Richie. I let her know that I was praying for her and enclosed one of the guitar picks that was made to honor Richie. I had this unexplainable desire to just share my son with her. I do not know why. All I know is I needed to tell her his story. I sealed the envelope and wiped my tears.

A week later, I received a thank you card from Debbie and Kayla. I was shocked. These two woman did not need to thank me. They wanted me to know that Richie’s story had touched them. On Sunday, Kayla’s Facebook page said that she had gotten the news that there was a heart and kidney for her. I was so overjoyed! I then became a stalker on her page waiting for the updates as to how the surgeries went. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed for her.

Well, Kayla received her new heart and her new kidney and she is doing wonderful! Her mom continues to ask for prayers not only for her but for the donor family. And this is where Kayla’s story helped me……….

As most of you know by now, Richie had desired to be an organ donor and we fulfilled his wishes. I have always known I had made the right decision to give others hope but the thing with donor families is sometimes we do not ever get to see the hope fulfilled. I have written all the recipients of Richie’s organs and I have only heard back from one. I heard from the man who received his heart. He thanked me and assured me he would take care of his gift. Even though I am secure with my decisions, I have always felt like I needed a sign that made my heart feel like I did. Watching Kayla go from a young lady praying for hope to a young lady receiving this tremendous gift has done that. I needed to see the process. I needed to see it from the other side. The joy that this family felt receiving the news yet the way they felt sorrow and appreciation for the family that lost. I needed to see that out of death can come life and hope. I needed to see it from the hope and joy side not the grief and funeral side. Kayla and her family have helped me see the tremendous gift my son gave to four families on New Year’s Day. Kayla will be able to go on and live a hopefully long and full life. I pray she lives out her wildest dreams!

I will forever mourn my son and wish that he was still with me. It was God’s will for him to leave me so soon. Nothing will ever make this better for me but knowing he gave hope and the gift of life to others does give me comfort. I hope that one day I get to meet this young lady and thank her. And to see her beautiful smile in person! I ask that you all say a prayer for Kayla tonight and that you also say a prayer for her donor family. Let us all continue to have Hope for Kayla. One of my heroes in my healing.

Please visit her Facebook and show her some support:

Kayla Montiel Is Our Hero


Kayla after she received the news of her new heart and kidney!



Morning Breakdown

Today, we go to our first Donate Life event. Today, we honor our son. But last night, I started a breakdown. Jeff and I came home and we laid the things we had bought out so that we could make posters for Richie. I was all excited to make them and then it hit me. I am making posters for my son who has died. This is not the way it was supposed to be. I brought him into this world. I raised him. I watched him grow up and become a man. Richie wasn’t supposed to go before me. I was supposed to grow old and spoil his children. Cook Sunday dinners for all the family. I was supposed to sit around my table and look at all my children and their families and see the life I have worked for. None of my children were to go before me. They were supposed to be sitting at that table talking about me and what I was like. Not me and Jeff trying to figure out how to arrange letters and which phrase would be best to sum up our love and pride for Richie.

So I kind of lost my drive and Jeff was left to do most of it. When he was done I went to bed and tried to sleep. Luke’s dog barked all night. When the dog quit barking, the one bird that hates me was chirping. When the bird stopped the squirrels in the attic decided to hold a dance party. The cycle went on all night. Over and Over. So I couldn’t sleep which meant I was thinking even more about the unnatural order my life had taken.So I cried. And I sobbed. And I spent the whole night mourning the life I have now and the dream I will never get to see come true. I think I may have gotten an hours rest all night.

So I was up with the birds. Literally. I made sure Jeff got up for work and Luke up for class and then I started my breakdown. This one was a doozy. It started with tears, went into the tears that come in sobs. Let’s not forget the noise that you make that just sound like a dying cow. Then next we have the nose that runs like a stream. then it just falls into continuous tears that just flow no matter how hard you want to stop. This cycle went on and on. I got in the shower and it got worse. I went to get out of the shower and realized, I had conditioner still in my hair and had not even bathed. So back in the shower for another breakdown. I have cried all morning. I have cried hard.

I am still crying and sobbing huge sobs while typing this. It just won’t stop. But I will quit crying right before people start getting here to go with us. I will quit crying and paint on this brave strong face they all think I have. We will go and meet other families like ours that have a loved one who donated life. We will meet people who have been given the gift of life from others. The kids will walk in the family parade holding the signs we made. We will spend an evening of love and baseball. I will do it for my son who went out of order and I will do it to honor him.