DALLAS — Before a crowded congregation at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, two families linked hands and quietly prayed.
The audience is mesmerized, but not because of the sermon. It is the generosity and painstaking decision of a stalwart mother that has their attention.
For more than three months, Tina Salazar has second-guessed her last-minute decision to donate the organs of her 20-year-old son Mason after he was shot and killed.
She admits that giving life is a great reward, but it comes at a price.
"When it's done, it's like everyone moves on but you," Salazar said.
But her decision to donate Mason's organs now gives new life to five strangers, including a 61-year-old who received his heart; a 55-year-old who got his lungs; someone unknown who received his liver; and two teenagers who now have Mason's kidneys.
Only one of the recipients, 16-year-old Bryson Lewis, offered thanks for the donation. Salazar said that made her reassess her initial apprehension.
"To have one boy come forward and say, 'Hey, thanks. Your son did not die in vain, that he gave something,' was really special and they are really good people," she said.
Bryson and his mother, Cynthia Jefferson, first thanked the Salazars in the form of a private letter, and then publicly at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.
Jefferson said she can't thank the Salazars enough. "We're blessed that you guys made the decision, and we will honor Mason's life," she said.
Both families chose to share their story to inspire others to do the same.
"Without the gift, I could not do what I am able to do now," Bryson said.
His new kidney lets him march with his high school band for the first time ever.
Mason's donation leaves a legacy for his daughter and family, and — most importantly — his memory lives on.
"I'm glad that he's living and that he has a part of Mason out there there is a part of him out there," said Lisa Mitchell, the mother of Mason's daughter. "It's hard," she added through tears.
Tina Salazar is now asking state lawmakers to consider what she's calling Mason's Bill, hoping to establish new legislation that would provide financial incentives to the love ones of the donating families.