One of the things my late husband always wanted to do was see a lion in the wild of Africa. Unfortunately, this was one wish that never came true. 


My late husband was a lung transplant recipient and the medication he had to take every day and the risk of traveling to Africa for a safari was just too great for his health. So we were never able to go to Africa. He never got to see a lion in the wild. But I promised him that one day our son and I would go. And this summer we did just that.


When we embarked on our safari in Africa, I told our guide I wanted to see a lion. And he told me he could not promiseI would see a lion but I would have a wonderful safari. As our first day wore on, I was explaining to James, our guide, why it was so important for me to see a lion. That it was the one thing my late husband always wanted to do and if we saw a lion, then I would know he was the first with us. It would be a sign from him. As our first day wore on, I began to realize I probably was not going to see a lion. My son was teasing me saying that his dad was going to let him see a lion but not me. And as we were joking about this, our guide calmly said “Carla, look to your right. “


And there it was, a male lion. Sleeping so peacefully. I felt my eyes well up with tears. And my heart was so full of love and emotion. It felt as if Jared wrapped his arms around me. He was definitely there. As my new husband got out the camera to take a photo, my son said “mom, look behind him. Look behind the lion.” And there was a lioness with a cub. A little family of three. I could not have asked for a more perfect sign. Jared was definitely there.


As we were watching, the lion raised his head and looked right at us. Watched us watching him. While we were watching the lion, the lioness and her cub got up and started walking around and moving away. But the lion never left his spot. He just continued to lay there. The entire time we watched him, he just stayed in his spot.  He raised his head but he never moved away. It was like he was telling us it was OK. He was good where he was. 


That brought me such peace. Helped heal my heart. There has always been a little part of my heart that was broken, closed off since Jared died. A part that time cannot heal. Even though I have moved forward in life. I am remarried. I’ve moved to a new home. And I’ve had countless new adventures with my son, there’s always been a little piece of my heart that aches from the loss of Jared. At that moment, watching that lion, the ache was less. 


The next day, my son and I were taking a walking tour through Lake Maynera and we ran into a couple and their guide. We were telling them that we had seen a lion and their guide was astounded. He said it’s extremely rare to see a lion in Lake Maynera.  And that we were very lucky. I don’t think we were lucky. I think my late husband sent us a sign. I sign that meant the world to me.


As we returned to our camp that afternoon, we saw a lioness with her cubs. In a park in which lion sightings are rare,we were fortunate to see them twice. And as our safari went on, we saw lions every day except one. My late husband granted my wish. He sent lions to let me know he was with us. And he was finally getting to see a lion in the wilds of Africa. And that even though we were not together, we were seeing the lions together. As a family. And that feeling, the love and emotion that comes from realizing that he was there, I can’t even begin to describe.


Who knew that seeing a lion in the wilds of Africa would bring me such peace. Would be so healing. Would be an amazing experience that I was able to share with my family. Would be a moment that my son and I would look at each other with tears in our eyes and know that Jared is always with us. Without question he is always here. 


Seeing that lion is a moment I will never forget. 

A moment that has healed my heart and soul in a way I cannot describe. 

A moment that will be forever etched in my memory.


Thank you Jared for the priceless gift.


Carla always knew she would be a widow but didn’t have any idea how it would actually feel. When Carla met her late husband Jared, he was waiting for a lung transplant due to Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease affecting the lungs and pancreas. So she knew that most likely someday she would say goodbye to her husband. But she never dreamt it would be exactly one week before their 14th wedding anniversary. In August 2014, Jared was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection in his transplanted lung and was expected to survive at least 6 months if not a year. Instead, he died just 6 weeks later. And in the blink of an eye, Carla became a solo mom to their 10-year-old son. And even though her life was forever marked before and after, she was determined to live life to the fullest because her husband would expect no less.

She founded Breathing for Jared, a Foundation to provide college scholarships to those suffering from lung disease in honor of her late husband. Became a supporter of the CF Foundation and Donate Life. And discovered that writing out her emotions and fears on her blog Transplant Wife and Widow helped her to process her grief

Carla recently remarried and is now blending a family with her new husband, bonus daughter, and son.