Becky Turney’s son Triston Green passed away two years ago. After the teenager died, 20-year-old Jacob Kilby received Triston’s donated heart. In a move that brings tears to our eyes just thinking about it, Becky’s husband Kelly planned a way for Triston to be at his mother’s wedding. Jacob was a surprise guest at the ceremony, and of course with him came Triston’s heart.
“Her son couldn’t be here for the wedding day but Becky’s groom Kelly Turney, surprised her by flying Jacob up to Alaska to stand in as a groomsmen, carrying Triston’s heart,” photographer Amber Lanphier shared on the Facebook page of her business, Love Adventured LLC. “Kelly stopped the ceremony to introduce Jacob to Becky for the first time.”
When she saw Jacob, Lanphier captured the priceless look on Becky’s face. “It was shock, immense joy, excitement — I squealed like a little girl,” Becky told Yahoo Style. “I jumped up and down.”
Green had decided on his own to be an organ donor when he was 14 and got his driver’s permit, Becky explained. “When we got the news that he wasn’t going to make it, right away I requested to speak to a doctor about organ donation,” she said. “It was not until we met with the donation team that they came in with a copy of his donor paperwork and they said he had already signed. We honored that decision. It comforts you to know that your child can save lives through death. It’s something that you’re just proud. My child just became five other people’s hero.”
When Kilby passed away in Nevada, Kilby had been in a hospital in California for 45 days awaiting a heart transplant. He had received one previously as a child, but at 18, that heart began to fail him, due to a complication called cardiac allograft vasculopathy. He spent a year and a half on the transplant waiting list.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the gift that I have and respect the gift that I have,” Kilby told Yahoo.
After he received his new heart, it was Kilby’s aunt who first began to correspond with the Turneys, but then the couple reached out to him on Facebook. They got along well enough that when Kelly came up with the idea to surprise Becky, Kilby agreed. He arrived a few days before the wedding. “Once I figured out how good of a guy Kelly was, and he wasn’t some weirdo in Alaska, we bonded and clicked,” he said. “This is actually the first wedding I’ve been to, so that was cool. I doubt any wedding will top this one.”
Someone thought to bring along a stethoscope for the occasion, through which Becky got to listen to her son’s heart beating in Kilby’s chest.
“Everyone was so moved by this and I had to share this amazing story,” Lanphier wrote. “I had the pleasure of hearing Jacob share his gratitude and plans for a heart healthy life to Triston’s sister before the ceremony. I am so blown away by his story and his amazing outlook on life. You couldn’t ask for a better recipient to receive such a gift.”
Becky had arranged her own ways of including Triston in her ceremony. One photo Lanphier posted shows two small portraits of her son attached to her bouquet. Another shows a sign placed on a seat for the ceremony that reads: “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 post has gone viral since Saturday. (It has 203,000 likes, 76,000 shares, and 8,300 comments as of this writing.)
“Triston would have loved this,” Becky told Yahoo. “He loved being the center of attention. He was always the life of the party, outgoing and adventurous and generous and cocky and arrogant, but he was the guardian. He was the protector of all of his friends. He lived every minute of his life like it was his last. He probably lived more in his 19 years than anyone does in their entire lifetime.”
She said it really did feel like her son was there with Kilby, and she encourages other donor and recipient families to connect with each other too.
“Jacob…. hands down the best gift … most amazing surprise ever!!” she wrote in her own Facebook post after the wedding. “Thank you for caring for Triston’s heart. Thank you for being here! Thank you thank you thank you!”
Last year, another wedding gained international attention when a heart transplant recipient walked the daughter of his donor down the aisle. According to DonateLife.net, there are currently 118,000 people waiting for organ transplants, and 8,000 people die in the U.S. each year because they have not received transplants in time. (Just 54 percent of Americans are organ donors.) You don’t need to go to the DMV to register to be a donor, just sign up here.
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