The idea for A Heart’s Desires Foundation came from the ability to fulfill my mother’s final wish; which was to simply have one last drive through the Great Smoky Mountains.  A simple enough request that a son should be able to accomplish, correct?  No, not when dealing with ALS.  This was my mother’s diagnosis and the reason for her approaching the end of her life.  The process of fulfilling this final wish and completing her life journey became the motivation to provide this seemingly simple act for so many others approaching the end of their lives whether they were 18 or any age in between or beyond.

My mother was a fairly simple woman who expected to be treated with respect and dignity.  She had come from the fairly small town of Greeneville, TN, had survived many different trials throughout her life, witnessed the sudden death of my father from a heart condition, had picked herself up and started over, lost another love who died from cancer, and now was dying from the cruel disease called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  I am married to a wonderful woman and have two wonderful daughters, but no brothers or sisters, so I took this mission personally that she had left to me as it was my mother’s final wish.

My father had promised my mother a little yellow Mercedes convertible many years ago and I remembered her telling me that and if this was to be her final wish then she ought to be able to see that promise fulfilled from so long ago and still get her wish granted.  Now, I have used social media in the past and still do and I felt that with my sales background that maybe, just maybe, I could get some help so off to social media I went.  The response was awe-inspiring and just solidified even further that God has His hands in all things and this was never more evident than at that moment.  I received hundreds of responses, personal emails, phone calls, and too many contacts to mention.  People from all over the country reached back out to me with offers to come and drive my mother on her final trip through the Great Smoky Mountains!!

I remember speaking to one particular person who offered to load up their vintage Mercedes and fly it to Knoxville and pick her up for a ride and I was just beyond myself with this particular offer.  How could complete strangers give of themselves so freely for the wish of someone they had never met?  The Grace of God is my answer and the willingness of good people to rise to the challenge and offer something good of themselves.  I realized right then and there that people genuinely want to help but they lack the opportunity to do good for others as they don’t know the need.  I offered a need and they were able to provide.  That is why I felt that my idea would work.  Not just for my mother but so many others in my little neck of the woods, Eastern Tennessee, Tennessee, and all other areas where we could provide a need and the means to help others.  A Heart’s Desires Foundation was born at that moment.

The only thing that held me back at that moment was the feeling that what would be the best for all of us was if I could find a way to drive the car with my mother in the passenger seat and my daughters in the backseat.  This way we could all share in the experience and have something we could all remember going forward and not dwell on the pain and heartache that we were experiencing all in our own ways but have something positive to take with us.  My wife had to drive the support vehicle which carried my mother’s motorized wheelchair, but she would be close by and see what we were going through and experiencing ourselves and this gave her hope as well.  Something for all of us and this was when the idea came into being to be able to create a lasting memory for the family.  My mom was hurting and we knew she was hurting but by fulfilling a final wish we were all inspired and we all made a good memory to take with us going forward and have something we could talk about for the years to come.

One day, I remember, I received a phone call from a local dealership, who had been instructed by their main office, who was willing to provide an immaculate convertible and would allow us to have the vehicle over the course of a weekend at our discretion and the only thing I would have to pay for was the price of the gasoline!  It seemed that my simple request had gained so much traction that a local car club with thousands of members had gotten wind of my request and had made a request of their own to the North American HQ of Mercedes themselves.   My idea and my mother’s final wish were now being fulfilled.

Not long afterward, on a beautiful sunny Saturday, my family and I picked up my mother for a drive through the mountains, but with a slight detour.  The moment we arrived at the dealership and brought my mother into the dealership in her wheelchair we informed my mom that we were indeed taking the drive through the mountains but in a car, she never dreamed she would be able to ride in.  The moment was nothing short of magical and the memory, even now, brings tears to my eyes as I write this.  Seeing my mother work to cover her eyes and cry softly moved everyone in attendance and brought my active little girls to an awed silence as they worked to grasp what was taking place.  I was proud at that moment to have been able to make so much happen in such a short amount of time and the feeling I still have in my heart has made the years since that much more bearable.

It was also shortly after this ride that my mother asked me to baptize her and I had the greatest joy in being able to fulfill this as well with the help of my church, Seymour Church of Christ, West End Church of Christ, and local first responders.  A light in the darkness and memories to last us all until we are able to meet again.

The ability to fulfill a final wish is something we can all do and we can all be a part of something that is so wonderful.  Adults, like children, have wishes and dreams that they want to see come true or be fulfilled.  Yes, a child’s dream is incredibly important, but the dream or wish of an adult is no less important.  In the darkest of days we want to see a light and be able to enjoy the company of one another and have at least a moment’s respite from what is taking place and what better way to rest than to be part of the fulfillment of a final wish?  The ability to fulfill a final wish and create a lasting memory is something we know firsthand because it was through the fulfillment of my mother’s final wish that we, as a family, have been able to look back on my mother’s passing with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that we showed her the dignity and respect she deserved and instead of dwelling on the loss we remember the final wish we fulfilled.