MIAMI — A former EMT from New Jersey drove all the way from the Garden State to the Sunshine State with his wife, so they could show their gratitude for the new heart that beats inside Sean Moynihan’s chest.
Now, Moynihan, 58, is helping to create a permanent memorial in the ocean for the late young man who gave him the chance to extend his own life.
The heart belonged to Sandor Szabo, who was just 35 years old when he was killed last August, after a single punch to the head sent him flying onto a sidewalk in Queens. Szabo suffered a catastrophic brain injury.
Before he was removed from life support, Sandor’s heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver were removed to benefit four people in New York and New Jersey.
Moynihan received the heart at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital last August and met Sandor’s mother and extended family for the first time on Thursday, Valentine’s Day, in Boca Raton, where Sandor lived with his brother, Dominik.
By Friday morning, Moynihan and his wife joined Szabo’s family at Bill Bird Marina in North Miami, where they created a reef ball that would carry Sandor’s ashes— and mementoes from his life that meant the most to him.
“Meeting Sean has brought me enormous peace,” Sandor’s mother, Donna Kent, told PIX11 Saturday. “I know Sandor picked Sean personally to ‘safe keep’ his heart.”
Moynihan helped Donna Kent mix her son’s ashes with environmentally-friendly cement, as they created a top layer for the large “reef ball” at the Bill Bird Marina Friday morning.
They were working with Eternal Reefs, a non-profit organization that creates ocean memorials to preserve, protect, and enhance the marine environment by creating reef memorials.
Sandor’s reef ball will be added to a memorial reef in the North Miami area this Monday.
In preparing Sandor’s reef ball, his family affixed several, bronze plaques in the cement and other personal items.
One plaque said: “Sandor’s Lobster Hotel, Bugs and Hogfish Welcome,” a nod to Sandor’s prowess as a diver and lobster catcher.
Another plaque is an ode to Sandor’s birthplace, the state of Hawaii.
Sandor’s mother left a rock etched with a touching saying, “Your wings were ready but my heart was not. XXXO Mom.”
There are images of Sandor’s beloved dog, Tank, embedded in stone. Donna Kent said Tank was her son’s “constant shadow” who swam with Sandor, kayaked with him, and even went to fancy restaurants with Sandor, who was a digital marketing executive with a New Jersey based company.
There was a religious medal of Madonna and Child left in the cement, along with lots of penguins, animals that Sandor loved.
Dominik Szabo left a model of the cartoon character “Pickle Rick” for his brother.
His aunt left a plaque representing the state of Montana, where Sandor spent a year of his life getting to know his cousins.
And Sean Moynihan, the heart recipient, left a small stone in the shape of a heart.
Sandor’s mother has taken comfort knowing her son’s name (pronounced Shawn-door) sounds very similar to Sean’s first name.
Eternal Reefs works with the Reef Ball Foundation and Reef Innovations, which have created more than 4,000 reef projects worldwide.
This Monday, Sandor Szabo’s reef ball will be added to the ocean memorial near Haulover Inlet in North Miami.
Sean Moynihan and his wife will be with Sandor’s mother and brother and other relatives to see Sandor’s remains start a new journey.
Moynihan has already given Sandor’s mother a special gift: the sound of Sandor’s strong heartbeat inside a stuffed teddy bear....that Donna Kent can listen to forevermore.