AUBURN, Maine — Hallie Twomey tries to find something constructive and right amid the always-raw grief she feels for her son, C.J.
Christopher “C.J.” Twomey of Auburn was 20 years old when he ended his life. He offered no explanation. He left no note.
“Nothing good came from his death,” she said. “But we have to make something positive.”
So, when people attended an American Red Cross blood drive at Lost Valley on Monday — the third anniversary of C.J.’s death — Hallie Twomey stood behind a “Donate Life” table and answered questions about organ donation.
She hoped to encourage a few people to enroll as a donor, like C.J. had.
In the hours that followed the young man’s death, his organs were given to sick people around the region. His corneas gave sight to a man. A lung gave another fresh air. His heart, kidneys and liver give more people chances at healthier, longer lives.
People who walked up the ski lodge stairs Monday saw a smiling picture of C.J., posing in his Air Force flight suit. His face adorned posters on the door and around the Auburn complex.
“It doesn’t change the pain in any way,” Hallie Twomey said. “It reaffirms that we made the right decision.
“I’d love to have hundreds of people register,” she said. “But even one can make a difference.”
It’s something she knew even before C.J.’s death.
Ten years ago, her father, Bill Keene, was the recipient of a heart transplant.
It saved Keene so profoundly — he is alive and healthy — that Twomey volunteered for the New England Organ Bank. She even spoke out to groups.
“I wish I still talked to people as the daughter of someone who had received a heart,” she said.
When C.J. died, the family knew what to do.
“The decision was immediate,” Hallie Twomey said. Her husband, John Twomey, agreed. “It changed us. Now, we’re on both sides of the organ donation equation.”
Nothing lessens the pain, though.
“We think C.J. hid a lot,” she said. “At his funeral, there were over 1,000 people. And most of them said to us, ‘He was the kid that made us happy.’”
The Edward Little High School graduate entered the Air Force after graduation.
He became a sensor operator aboard an AC-130 gunship. But after only a year of service, the Air Force gave him an honorable discharge and sent him home.
There was no explaining what he did. And there’s no blame, his mother said.
Supporting organ donation gives her a sense of purpose, she said. Every person who signs up gives her a victory, she said. People may also sign up online at www.donatelifenewengland.org.
“I’m thrilled people live because of C.J., but I want C.J. back,” she said.
“For three years, I feel like we’ve been living in a foggy nightmare,” she said. “I kind of feel lost without my son. We have another son, Connor, who is 19 and he misses his big brother.”
Hallie Twomey wears a necklace that holds some of C.J.’s ashes. And she always remembers his smile.
“He never met a mirror he didn’t like,” she said.
And she proudly talks about him, lest anyone forget.
“The single biggest fear for me is that my son will be forgotten,” she said. “It’s a huge fear. I believe that everyone who comes here today will think of him, if just for a moment.
“I hope people think of him,” she said. “He’s worth remembering.”