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Foundation, horse help grieving mother cope

11-year-old Colton Jackson's heart, liver, kidneys given to help others live

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mother's Day is a difficult day for Carole Jackson. She and her husband lost their 11-year-old son seven years ago.

She gets plenty of heartfelt hugs and many prayers from family, friends and even perfect strangers on that day. In fact, almost every day Jackson gets kind, thoughtful messages from those thinking of her as she and her husband continue the journey after losing their only child.

Colton Jackson was gravely injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident on a road near his home. His parents had to make the unimaginably difficult decision to "let him go."

"We knew he was our miracle," she said. "He was our only child and he was our blessing from God."

The pain remains staggeringly fresh, with Mother's Day, Father's Day and what would have been Colton's graduation from high school coming up.

"His school has invited me and my husband to be a part of their ceremony, which -- it means so much to us that people are keeping him alive, keeping his memory alive," Jackson said.

Jackson said she and her husband have found new energy to continue living by sharing their son's generosity with others.

Their foundation, appropriately named Colton's Heart, was created to help local families in crisis. 

Jackson (pictured in photo with Colton) smiles, with tears in her eyes as she describes their only son, who was known for his kindness to others, particularly to small children.

In death, he extended the lives of four people through the donation of his heart, liver and both kidneys.

"Knowing that your child has given someone else life that they may not have had otherwise is truly a blessing, it really is a blessing," she said.

Now, this mom with what seems to be a chronic aching heart has finally allowed herself to open her heart to another love, a huge relief to her friends. The equine friend who she found has a link to her beloved Colton.

"His birthday is the same as my son's," she laughs, as she strokes the coat of her quarterhorse gelding, Magnum.

"His birthday is 2-24-2005 and my son's was 2-24 2000! You can't make this up. It just -- it took my breath away."

She said she knew when she saw the horse that he could "get me off the couch for lack of a better word, because that's what most of my friends were afraid of; they were having trouble getting me off the couch."

Even the Western saddle she had made for her beloved Magnum, is a well-crafted reminder of her son, with his name, as well as her foundation's logo, carved into the soft, leather.

But Magnum wasn't the first horse she found while searching for an animal to help in her recovery after losing her son. Right before she went to look at the first horse she wanted to try, a friend wrote to her on Facebook: "I'm so sorry you're having such a bad night. I hope you get a message from heaven today."

She did, and that first horse she went to see was named Angel..

"It took my breath away.. it took my friend's breath away," Jackson said. "I felt like Colton was literally looking at me and saying, 'Mom, you have to do this for yourself. You can't not do this.'"

She found Magnum, the horse that shares Colton's birthday, shortly after. And she's been riding and smiling more ever since.

Colton's parents are hoping anyone touched by his story will join them on Saturday for the first golf tournament benefiting Colton's Heart. It will be held at Bent Creek Golf Course on the Westside.

You can register at golfbentcreek.com

About the Author:

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.