SALEM, Va. – The mother of a Salem man who died nearly two years ago is sharing the story of how her son saved a man's life by being an organ donor.
Melinda Dillon remembers her son, Lucas, as full of life and energy.
"(He) had more friends than you could count," Dillon said.
But she says many people didn't know about the 21-year-old's decade-long struggle with mental illness until he took his own life.
"His blood type and mine both were B Positive and part of his notation to us, you know, when he committed suicide was to stay positive," Dillon said.
She got that message tattooed on her wrist along with Lucas' heartbeat.
"It’s been hard. It's hard to stay positive," Dillon said.
She took it a step further though, deciding to share her son's story of organ donation.
"I think that's what we as his family want to see happen. We want other people to realize you've got to do something for somebody. If you can make a difference for one person, that's all that matters" Dillon said.
For Lucas, that one person is Dave.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't even be talking to you right now," Dave said.
Lucas' heart now beats inside the chest of a 56-year-old Navy veteran who was suffering from congestive heart failure.
"I was gone. I was dead gone. I wasn't supposed to be here. Before Lucas, I wasn't supposed to be here," Dave said.
Melinda reached out to Dave and months later, they met in person. That's when she and her family were able to hear Lucas' donated heart, beating in Dave's chest.
"That heart started out in me. It's like Lukie's love because of that heart is just continuing to beat every single day," Dillon said.
That familiar heartbeat created a unique bond.
"He’s just another member of our family now," Dillon said.
Melinda now encourages others to follow in her son's footsteps by donating.
"I think Lucas taught us, we just have to give back. We have to stay positive and give back to somebody else," Dillon said.