Loved ones of 19-year-old Connor Eckhardt, from right, his mother Veronica Eckhardt, aunt Terri Mehrguth, sister Sabrina Eckhardt, 18, father Devin Eckhardt and close friend Jaclyn Westfall, 20, look on as a helicopter carrying Connor's heart flies off from Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach on Thursday. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / July 17, 2014)

  • Related
  • Photo Gallery: 'Spice' Claims A Young Life Photos: Photo Gallery: 'Spice' Claims A Young Life
  • Topics
  • Laws and Legislation

In middle school, Connor taught himself to play the guitar. He later helped with worship services at Master's Ranch, a Christian boarding school in Missouri for troubled boys, which Connor attended at age 15 to help him work through emotions stemming from the knowledge that he was adopted.

Connor inspired many others to pick up the instrument there and helped them to learn how to play, the Ranch's pastor, David Bosley, said.

Connor enrolled in Liberty University in Virginia to become worship leader after high school, but hadn't yet completed the program.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Veronica sat in a chair next to her son, leaning her forehead on the bed.

"What time is it?" she asked, looking up to find the answer. "So we only have an hour and 40 minutes with him?"

Her lower lip curled down. Her right hand rested on Connor's left.

The minutes ticked on.

"I just keep thinking he's going to open his eyes and go, 'What's up guys?'" she said aloud.

Folding over the bedside, she buried her head in his chest and cried.


A few hours spent in Puerto Rico

When Connor decided to become an organ donor, his parents never imagined it would allow them four extra days with their son.

Connor took a hit of spice with a friend on a Saturday night in Orange County. He later fell asleep.

At midnight, the rest of his family, who live near Sacramento, landed in Puerto Rico for what they thought would be a two-week vacation. But they learned several hours later that Connor was in a Santa Ana hospital and were back at the airport soon after.

Connor was transferred to Hoag overnight. When the Eckhardts arrived at his bedside midday Monday, his brain was swollen, and he was already in a coma.

But they could take pictures. They could try to internalize his smell, which photos could never capture.

They could talk to him, trace the muscles in his arms, run their fingers through his hair.

And they could pray over him, laying hands on him, trying to let him go.

"Father, we are so privileged to know and love and laugh with Connor," began a family friend, Chris Walsh, as the afternoon pushed on Thursday, July 17, before doctors would wheel Connor's body away.