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Montana woman writes book to bring attention to organ donation following death of her son

Posted at 7:26 AM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:49:30-04

April is Organ Donation Month.

Following the death of her son in 2014, Cheryl Heser wrote a book reflecting on the process of grieving, as well as championing organ donation.

“The book begins with the death of our youngest son, Josh,” Heser said.

Josh died of brain injuries suffered in a rollover accident. 

“He was our gentle giant, very big guy, 6’8, 240, and a very competent mechanic, but at the same time very warm and tender inside. Absolutely adored little children, was a good friend to everyone around him, and very well loved,” Heser said.  

Heser, who grew up in Billings, said Josh was always a service-oriented person, and even after his death he continues to help others. 

Every 10 minutes another person is added to the organ and tissue transplant waiting list. 

“Organ donation is what we call it, but it’s so much more than that and there were over 100 people that were helped by Josh and that includes a couple of people who didn’t have to have amputations because of his young, healthy veins,” Heser said. 

Multiple people were spared from amputations because of Josh’s healthy veins, and one woman found relief from chronic, lifelong pain due to his vertebrae. 

Lifecenter Northwest, which facilitates tissue and organ donation, has gatherings of donor families and recipients. 

“One of those we were able to spend time with (was) the young man who has Josh’s heart, and we were actually able to listen to that heart through a stethoscope. What an amazing moment,” Heser said. “I first heard that heartbeat on a fetal monitor long before Josh was born and here was an opportunity to hear that heart beating in another man’s chest, and to know that he had received life back.” 

That man now lives a happy, healthy life with a little girl. 

“He corresponds with us and is such a wonderful part of our lives and the coping process,” Heser said. “I say coping because you never completely heal from grief, but nevertheless healing, and coping.”

In her book, Heser describes different types of grief. Parents have a life before the birth of that child. Siblings have no part of their life that they can remember. 

She also speaks of those who have been there throughout her coping journey. 

“In the book that I wrote I talk about different aspects of light, and one of those is like stained glass window, there are people whom the light shines through,” Heser said. 

Following Josh’s death, some family friends brought by some warm food, and just sat and talked with her. 

“Their food and they and their warmth were so healing, such a wonderful gesture in our direction,” Heser said.

And she wants people to remember that although breaching the subject of someone lost can be painful, not speaking of them is worse. 

“We need to talk about it, and talk about the person all of those things reminds us that their influence is still very alive in the world,” Heser said. “I’m very thankful for Josh and for the time that we did have with him.”

There is now a scholarship in Josh’s name that helps trades-men and women, as Josh himself was a skilled mechanic.

Lifecenter Northwest can be contacted toll free at 877-275-5269. 

For more information on donation, visit: