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KEARNEY, Mo. — Over the weekend, a local family got a gift years in the making: the chance to hear their son’s heart beat again.

More than two years ago, Taylor Ware, a young Marine from Kearney died, but he was an organ donor.

The details surrounding the end of Ware’s life are difficult, and more than anything his family wishes he was still here. But knowing his heart is still beating gives his family peace.

Our legacy is all we can leave behind. For Ware, he left a lifetime.

“Taylor was a person with a heart of gold,” his dad, Thomas Ware, said.

The 24-year-old joined the Marines just like his dad did. In high school, he was an all-state wrestler for Kearney High School. He traveled across the United States and Europe, experiencing the world.

Ware also struggled with his mental health. He was honorably discharged in 2019.

“I had a wonderful son,” Ware said.

Taylor died in August 2019. His family said they were in Indiana trying to get him home for mental health care. They called police for help because he was in distress. There was a struggle and afterward Ware died at the hospital from a medical condition related to delirium.

“A month prior to Taylor’s passing, he signed up to be an organ donor,” Ware said.

At the same time, Clay Yates was struggling in a St. Louis hospital. The realtor and father of two had an enlarged heart.

“Due to my severity, I was placed rather high on the top of the list,” Yates said.

Taylor’s heart became Clay’s heart. On Saturday, Thomas got to hear his son’s heart beat again inside of Clay.

“Overwhelming to say the least. Tears of joy. To listen to my son’s heart, it was very emotional. I hope to keep hearing it beat for a long long time,” Ware said.

“You have to realize what they’re dealing with and what they are going through is quite literally the opposite of what I was experiencing. I was joyous of getting a second chance at life while they’re mourning,” Yates said.

Taylor’s dad is happy his gift is helping Clay live a lifetime.

“It just brings joy that Taylor could help Clay out and his family. They’re a wonderful, beautiful family. Taylor is smiling down from heaven now,” Ware said.

“He gave me a second chance at life, and I will forever be grateful for that,” Yates said.

Taylor’s lungs were also donated to an unknown person. His family is hoping to meet them in the same way sometime in the future.

If you are experiencing a mental health struggle of your own and need help you can call the Mental Health Crisis Line. It’s available every day, 24-hours-a-day at 1-888-279-8188. You can find more information through the Metro Council of Community Behavioral Health Centers.