I lost my 32 year old son, Rick to an overdose after a 15 year struggle with drugs. He fathered four children, who will never know the other side of their father.
The Smart side.
The Funny side.
The Serious side.
The Sentimental side.
The Adventurous Side.
The Pre-Med Student.
The Baseball Player.
The Amazing Chef.
The Good Hearted.
The Animal Lover.
That helped take care of his dying grandmother.
They will never know the father who loved them, whose eyes swelled up when he talked about them. Who physically ached to hold them, teach them, play with them, and love them!
All wasted. All stripped away. Robbed. Because of an
INSIDIOUS DISEASE CALLED ADDICTION.
I will tell your story Rick over and over again in an effort to save a life.
In an effort to save a family from a lifetime of suffering!
Any help in this war against drugs I stand for❗️
The program helps teens fight peer pressure to participate in drugs.
The key here is:
"My parents drug test me."
I just ordered a kit to see the process. The shipping charge was $6.95.
Sent from my iPhone
"A Disciple of Jesus leaves where they are and goes where God wants them to go, to do what God wants them to do."
A Disciple is moved by a mission, to take the message wherever it needs to go.
I am a Disciple!
I am called to go out and share God's love, meeting the hurts of people.
I have a Grief Ministry, birthed by the loss of 2 precious sons.
If you are a church or a group of Bereaved Parents, I will travel to your church or group and share my story of HOPE!
The passion in my heart is to help your move from Heartbreak to Hope.
On November the 9 2011 at 7:45 in the morning I was driving to work at the prison when my son called me. He said” Momma I don’t feel good. I think I have the flu. I ran 104 fever all night and my head and neck really hurt.” I asked him if he could bend his head forward and touch his chin to his chest. He said “no momma, it hurts too bad. It hurts all the way down my back into my hips.” These words struck fear in me. As a nurse I thought the worse but as his mom I prayed it was the flu. I told him to go to the closest ER and he said he was on his way. I told him to call me when he knew something and said “I love you baby boy.” He said “I love you too momma”. Those would be the last words my son ever spoke to me.
At 11:30 I received a phone call telling me that my son had bacterial meningitis and that he had been heavily sedated and intubated. I was told he was being flown to Mass General in Boston. I managed to drive home, although I have no memory of how I got there. Arrangements were made for me to fly to Boston that evening and my parents and husband would start the drive to MA that afternoon. I went to the school and picked up my girls who were 14 and 15 at the time. The last thing I said to them was “I’m going to bring your brother home”, a promise I regret making to this day.
After one missed flight and one near missed flight I made it Boston around 10:30 that night. The gentlemen working at the desk called the ICU to let them know I was coming up. I was met by the on call doctor and she explained to me that it didn’t look good. Jonathon had not been given any more sedatives since being intubated, and he was not responding to anything, including pain. I knew as a nurse what this meant. But in my heart I knew he would respond to me. I walked into his room and was stunned. I have seen sick people; people on ventilators. But nothing in my nursing career could have prepared me to see my son lying in that bed, connected to all of those machines. My heart began to crumble as I held his hand, talked to him and kissed him on his forehead. I begged him to move, blink, anything. Then I began to assess him as a nurse instead of a mom. I checked his reflexes; he had none. I checked his pupils, they were fixed and dilated. I checked his pain response: it was absent. Yet as his mom I prayed. I begged God to heal him, to take me instead. I sat there with him until around 3am when his nurse came and told me I should go get some rest. I told her I had nowhere to go to which she replied “yes you do. I made arrangements for you to use the small conference room off the waiting area and I have put some blankets and pillows in there and hung a sign on the door so people will not go in.”
I went to lay down and tried to rest and get some sleep. Finally giving up around 6am I returned to Jonathon’s room to sit with him. I held his hand and just talking to him; reminding him that he had people who loved him so much. Telling him about his sisters and how much they still needed him, about how much I still needed him. And telling him he still had too much to do in his life to leave now.
Around 830 that morning a social worker stopped in named Marilyn. She told me the night nurse had left her a message telling her that I was from Texas and alone here with my son. She made arrangements for me to shower in the nurse’s room as I was still in my scrubs from the day before. She worked on finding me a place to stay that was close to the hospital. But most of all she was there for me. She asked if I would like the clergy to come and when I told her that would be fine she brought in Father John. The rest of that day and all of the next Father John, the nurses and Marilyn became my life line, never leaving my side. Hugging me when I would break down, trying to get me to eat and drink when I didn’t want to. I may not have had my family there, but in these strangers I found a new kind of family. I didn’t realize it at the time but the people that God was putting in my path were to show me the value of kindness, compassion and generosity.
On the morning of November 11th one of the doctors came to me and explained that they wanted to do another scan of Jonathon’s brain and they wanted to see if he would breath spontaneously on his own. Around 3pm I was taken to a conference room where several doctors, Marilyn, Father John and Jonathon’s nurse were waiting, I knew in my heart what I was about to be told. I had thought long and hard for two days about what I would do if they reported the worst, and due to a conversation I had with my son a few years earlier I knew what my son would want. He had told me that if he ever became so sick that there was no hope for a recovery he did not want to live on machines. He told me “momma it will be the hardest thing you ever have to do but if it comes to that you have to promise me you will let me go” That conversation kept going through my head as the doctors were talking to me. He couldn’t breathe on his own; he didn’t even try. The scans had shown his brain stem had herniated and he was brain dead. What made my son, my son, was already gone and my hope for a miracle came crashing down. Then they asked me if I would consider organ donation. Of all the things that had raced through my mind since finding out Jonathon was sick I had never thought of donating his organs. I am unsure how long it took me to answer with my mind racing and my heart breaking, I told them “Jonathon had a huge heart. He was kind and loving. He would give anything to anyone who needed it. So, yes, I think that’s what he would want.”
When everyone got up to leave Father John stayed to talk to me. He asked me if I believed in angels, to which I replied yes. He asked me if there was a passage in the Bible that was my favorite and again I said yes. "Be still and know that I am God." Because sometimes that’s all you can do. That doesn’t always make things easier though. I was angry with God, why did I not get my miracle? How could he take my son away? What was I going to tell Jonathon’s sisters?
I promised to bring him home and I failed. How was I going to tell his friends he was gone? How was I supposed to continue as a nurse? I couldn’t save my own son how would I save anyone else? How was I going to survive this? He was my son, but also my best friend, how would I learn to live without him? Then the doubts started to creep in about organ donation; is that what he would have wanted? Did I make a mistake? Father John and I prayed together and I went back to sit with Jonathon, hoping to find the answers to my questions.
Later that evening the people from the New England organ bank came to talk to me and I yet again found myself in a conference room.
The person from the organ bank was a very soft spoken and gentle woman named Kristen. She asked me why I chose to donate my sons organs. My reply was the same as it was to the doctors earlier. Kristen looked at me and she said “I just want you to know that Jonathon was a registered organ donor not only in Texas but also in MA.” At that moment, hearing her words, I felt my first glimmer of hope. I had made the right decision; I had somehow known that is what Jonathon wanted. I didn’t get my miracle, but maybe other people would.
Later as I sat down with Kristen to answer the questions she had and sign consents I was struck by what a hard job she has. She has to approach people at the worst times of their lives when they are over whelmed, sad and broken hearted. She asks them to give a piece of their heart, a piece of their loved one. She has to ask prying questions and broach sensitive subjects. Yet, She was so kind and compassionate. She never rushed me though the process and always took time to answer questions and explain things to me. She held my hand while I cried and did her best to reassure me. She explained that I didn’t have to consent to organ donation even though Jonathon was registered. My response to her was “yes I do. Because it will be the last wish I will be able to grant to my son.”
My parents and my husband, Joe, arrived late that night. The next day my best friend Sherry arrived; as had some of Jonathon’s friends. The day was spent taking turns sitting with Jonathon and trying to figure out how to say good bye. All the while the nurses for donate life ran tests to determine what organs could be used for donation. Jonathon’s heart and lungs could not be used; neither could his eyes. In the end the only things they could transplant were his liver and his kidneys. Tissues and other organs would go to research. Donate life was amazing. They treated my son with respect and dignity and even though he didn’t know the difference at that point, I did. They took imprints of his hand and placed them in boxes for myself and his sisters, they helped me cut locks of his hair to keep and they printed off EKG strips and placed them in glass bottles so I would have pictures of his beating heart. They were so sweet and thoughtful, caring and compassionate. I could not have asked for better people to care for my son, myself and my family.
That night as I was about to leave I kissed my son for the last time and told him how much I loved him. With Joe on one side of me and Sherry on the other we walked down the hall towards the elevators. As we got into the elevator I said “I can’t do this. I can’t leave him here” The elevator door shut, and then opened back up, there was no one there. Sherry said “you’re not leaving him; he just got on the elevator.”
After the funeral and everyone went home and I went back to work, I held onto the hope that Jonathon’s gifts had been successful. That he had saved lives. I checked the mail every day because I knew eventually I would get a letter from the New England organ bank telling me about Jonathon’s donation. I received a ton of aftercare materials in the mail. Including pamphlets on ways to deal with grief and ways to help others deal with grief; as well as information to help children who have lost a sibling. Those resources for myself and my family always came with a kind letter of encouragement. But what I wanted most was the letter. Waiting on that gave me something to look forward to.
When Christmas eve came around I found myself struggling more than ever because Jonathon would have been home and it simply wasn’t fair that he was gone. All of my family had gathered at my mother’s house except me. I was working up the courage to go over there when I decided to check the mail and there was the letter I had been waiting on. The timing could not have been better. I opened it up and this is what I read.
Dear Mrs Barker,
On behalf of the New England Organ Bank I would like to extend to you our deepest sympathy on the death of your son, Jonathon. I would like to express my gratitude to you for thinking of others at a very difficult time. Please know that your ability to express your support for your son by following his wish to donate is truly admirable. I would like to take this opportunity to inform you about the outcome of your generosity.
I am happy to report that Jonathon’s liver was transplanted into a gentleman in his mid-50’s. This recipient is doing remarkably well and has been discharged home from the hospital. He is eating without restrictions, walking a mile a day and feeling strong. This gentleman is very thankful for the second chance at life your gift has offered.
A woman in her early 50’s received the gift of Jonathon’s left kidney. The kidney began functioning immediately and this recipient is in good condition post- transplant. She is now back at home where she will continue to regain her strength. This recipient has a very close relationship with her daughter. Currently disabled from work due to her illness, she enjoys soap operas, reading, listening to music, walking and dancing when able. She is extremely thankful for this most generous gift of life.
Jonathon’s right kidney was transplanted into a woman in her 40’s with a history of polycystic kidney disease. The kidney is functioning normally and she is now back at home where she lives with her family. She has one daughter and two sons (one of whom died in a motor vehicle accident in 2010). This woman enjoys exercising at the gym, activities with her children and staying active in her church. She is very grateful and shared the following with us, “I am very appreciative…they gave me a second chance in life”. She has a large support network of family and friends, and is very sympathetic to your loss.
The decision to donate itself is a wonderful gift and tribute to your son. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the aftercare department. Our thoughts and support remain with you.
My heart filled with hope knowing that a part of my son lives on in others. It filled with pride because my son had made the choice to be an organ donor at the age of 16. Yes, it was a tragedy that my son died, but because of his gift three other people were alive and spending Christmas with their families.
Throughout this journey I have learned that where there is great grief there is great love and through tragedy I have found hope. My son made an impact on this world when he was alive as well as when he died. As I searched for a way to put this into words; something Dr. Morris said one day came to me. People create ripples in their lives and in their deaths that flow into other people’s lives. Like the ripple in the ocean caused by one single rock that goes on and on. My son created many of these ripples and continues to do so even now 4 years, 5 months and 10 days after his death. In my son’s life he showed me what
In my son’s life he showed me what unconditional love felt like; he is the reason I made it through nursing school, “I believe in you, momma, you can do this.”; my biggest cheerleader. The ripple of that love and encouragement flows down to the people I take care of. He created ripples with his sisters in his example of being a kind, giving person. By teaching them things, both good and bad, that only a big brother can. Every life he touched in his 23 short years caused a ripple to form that continues every time his name is mentioned. In his death he created more ripples. I am filled with more grace and kindness now than I ever was before he died. Due in part because of the kindness shown to me by other people along this journey. His death has made me a more compassionate nurse and person. I see his ripples every time I see his sisters, my grandson, his friends. His ripples continue on in the lives of the people he saved. And although I have never spoke with or met these three people I know that every time they interact with other people it is a part of Jonathon. Because they wouldn’t be here without him. People have sent me pictures of their driver’s licenses with organ donor on them and countless others have messaged me to let me know they have registered for organ donation because of Jonathon’s story.
So today I want to encourage each of you to create your own ripples. Become an organ donor and share your wish with your family. Tell other people about the importance of organ donation and share Jonathon’s story of hope and the three lives he saved. I would also like to encourage you to be kind to one another. You never know what battle the person standing next to you is fighting and you never know what heart break the person at the next table has been asked to endure. It only takes a touch, a smile, a word of encouragement, a small act of kindness to make an impact on someone’s life. This is how I keep my son’s memory alive by creating these ripples of kindness.
I would like to thank you all for coming and hearing Jonathon’s story of hope.
The last thing I would like to leave everyone with is a dedication to Jonathon.
To my Baby boy-
I hope you know that I’m doing ok. I hope you know that I refuse to let my thoughts of you be tainted only by tragedy and loss. Death will not win; you surely did not let it when you gave the gift of life. Because of that, I won’t allow it either. It won’t shatter me beyond repair. It won’t incapacitate me. It won’t hold me down forever. Because you wouldn’t want it that way. You’d want me to live fully, to love deeply, and to leave an Impact, just like you did. I promise to stand and be your voice, even if the only thing lifting me to my feet is the thought of seeing you smile.
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CERTIFIED CELEBRANT IS A PERSON WHO HAS BEEN TRAINED AND CERTIFIED THROUGH INSIGHT TO MEET THE NEEDS OF FAMILIES DURING THEIR TIME OF LOSS.
I CAN PROVIDE A CELEBRATION OF LIFE, MEMORIAL OR TRIBUTE THAT IS PERSONALIZED AND REFLECTS THE PERSONALITY AND STYLE OF YOUR LOVED ONE.
I MEET WITH THE FAMILY TO CONSULT AND PLAN A CELEBRATION TO HONOR YOUR LOVED ONE. ONE OF SHARING STORIES, HIGHLIGHTING MILE STONES, POEMS, READINGS, PICTURES,
SLIDE VIDEO, MUSIC AND A REMEMBARANCE TAKE AWAY.
EVERY LIFE IS WORTH REMEMBERING!
I CAN HELP YOU SHARE THE LEGACY.
C Jay Anderson