When you lose someone, the sadness surrounding their death never really goes away. Grief comes in waves, and those waves ebb and flow. Some days will always be better than others. Weddings are a unique situation though, because on a day meant for joy and new beginnings, you can’t help but remember those who should be there celebrating with you.
That’s why this touching story of a mom who lost her son before her wedding day has people around the world tearing up.
A Sad Goodbye
An Alaskan woman named Becky Turney went through the unthinkable a few years ago when she lost her 19-year-old son, Triston. The mother was devastated, but she took solace in knowing her son was a donor. Triston’s heart, lungs, and other organs went toward others in need, and he ended up saving four lives.
As time moved on, Becky continued to mourn her son. But she also tried to live her life, and a couple of years later she was getting ready to marry the man of her dreams, Kelly Turney. He had been with Becky for the past seven years and knew everything she had been through.
So as the days to the wedding ticked down, the pair planned on having an empty seat in Triston’s honor. The couple also had a sign printed in his memory.
“I’m in heaven for your wedding so what shall I do? I’ll come down to earth to spend it with you. So save me a seat, just one empty chair. You may not see me, but I will be there,” the sign read.
The Ultimate Surprise
The couple rehearsed the wedding with the empty seat, and they didn’t really speak of it again. However, Kelly was secretly planning a big surprise for his bride.
When the big day arrived, Kelly walked down the aisle and stopped at the seat she had put aside. There, a 21-year-old man named Jacob Kilby sat instead. Kilby had been born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and received his first heart transplant when he was two. A few years ago, that heat deteriorated, and he had a heart attack. Triston’s heart saved his life.
Kelly had worked for months to fly Jacob out for the wedding and hid him until the last possible moment. Then, he introduced the man as his sixth groomsman.
“I lost my mind. I squealed like a little girl,” Becky, who had only ever spoken on the phone with Jacob previously, told Today. “It was incredible.”
Not a Dry Eye
People teared up as Becky wept and connected with Jacob. In a series of photographs from the wedding photographer, Amber Lanphier of Love Adventured, Becky and Jacob are hugging and smiling. One photo even shows Becky listening to Jacob’s heart with a stethoscope.
“There really are no words, and that’s the coolest part because the pictures, they say it all,” Becky added. “I’ve never ever been surprised like that, like ever. I’m the girl who secretly unwraps all the Christmas presents under the tree and puts them back. So for him to pull this off was just incredible.”
For Jacob, it was a meaningful way to say thank you to the mother and to honor the memory of the man who allowed him another chance at life by donating his heart.
“I wouldn’t be here without it,” he added. “Here in Alaska, we’ve definitely created a bond that’s unforgettable and very rare. By us sharing the story, it will hopefully encourage other people to do the same.”
Finding a Purpose
This story is a powerful one because it reminds us of the power of purpose. The death of Becky’s son was tragic, yet it allowed four other people to live.
Often in life, and especially when we lose someone who was close to us, we struggle with purpose. That’s why it can be helpful to find a way to make meaning out of our loss. Connecting with donor recipients is one example. So is creating a memorial fund in a loved one’s name or raising funds on their behalf. Many times we see families asking for donations to a charity instead of giving flowers at a service.
Sometimes, purpose following a loss can also be found within. Set new goals for yourself, pursue a new passion, or forge new relationships. By staying focused on the future and trying to do something positive for yourself, you have the power to continue on the path to healing.