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In a Heartbeat

His name was Justin Timion. He was only nineteen years old the day it happened. A good looking, fun loving kid, he loved doing auto mechanics with his Dad and often used his skills to help friends and family with car repairs to save them money. He was So soft-hearted he protested if his mother even tried to kill an insect. Justin loved everyone and never saw the bad in anyone.

Less than a week earlier in Wichita, Kansas, Dick Reed had been sent home by his doctors. Dick was dying, he needed a heart transplant, but he had stayed at the hospital as long as his insurance would pay. He and his wife clung to each other and hoped a heart would be found in time. A retired Air Force Cryptographic Encoder, Dick would sometimes sit with tears rolling down his cheeks as the thought tortured him that someone else would have to die if he were to live. He knew that time often runs out for those awaiting organs and that everything could change for him in a heartbeat. Every time one of his sons came to visit, it was a tearful parting. No one knew which visit might be the last one.

It had been a normal day in Dodge City, Kansas. Justin walked into the kitchen and said “I’m going out for a while, Mom.” His mother Mary Ann replied “give me a hug before you go.” With his customary groan of reluctance, he hugged her. “You know Dad is at the hospital with Grandma,” she added, and he replied he would join his Dad later.  Dick’s mother was in ICU.

Mary Ann got the phone call not long after Justin left that day. The police department said her son had been shot by a best friend and was being transported to the hospital. In disbelief, she rushed to be at his side. When she arrived, her husband tearfully told her it was too late; Justin was already showing no brain activity. The doctors asked if they wanted to donate Justin’s organs. David had remembered a week before Justin had changed his driver’s license to become an organ donor. To honor his wishes, his father said “Yes.”  His heart was sent to be implanted in Dick Reed’s chest.

Sometime later, Dick was having his hair cut.  A man in the shop told him how his nephew who was recently shot had become an organ donor only a week before his death. They compared notes and he discovered he was talking to the man who had received his nephew’s heart. They were elated. When the two families arranged to meet, Mary Ann felt like her son was coming home to her again. “His heart was the biggest part of him,” she says.

Justin didn’t know the day he signed that card to be an organ donor who he would touch with his final gift. He didn’t know Dick, or his wife Judy, or their children or grandchildren and how much Dick wanted to live. He didn’t know only a week later everything for him would change in a heartbeat.

Every year on the anniversary of the transplant and on Justin’s birthday, Dick and Judy travel to Dodge City and leave a gift for him on his grave, a small token of appreciation for the gift of life he gave to them.   Dick always has to wipe away a tear when, each time they part, Mary Ann puts her head to his chest to hear the comforting sound of her son’s heartbeat. You never know when how many lives may be changed by a gift you make. Life can change in a heartbeat, none of us know what the future holds. (This story was provided by Dick and Judy Reed and Mary Ann Timion in loving memory of Justin Timion.    Excerpted from Sidewalk Flowers – Vol. 1).