Sue Ellen Monaghan, 52, is kneeling on the sofa in her parents’ living room, looking out the window, as a bright red Jeep with Massachusetts plates pulls up and parks.

“I think it’s them,” she says to the dozen or so relatives who have gathered at the house in Portland.

She opens the front door as Jon Claflin, 52, gets out of his Jeep. Within seconds she’s hugging him and crying.

Everyone – Monaghan’s family members, Claflin’s wife and 13-year-old son – has tears in their eyes. But that’s no surprise.

Jon Claflin is alive today because Sue Ellen Monaghan’s beloved son, Tim, died last fall at age 25.

Jon has Tim’s heart.

• • • • •

Tim Conley grew up in the center of a big, boisterous, loving Italian family. His mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and eight cousins all lived within a stone’s throw of one another, in a small neighborhood off of Warren Avenue in Portland.

Sue Ellen Monaghan listens with a stethoscope to the heart of her son, Tim Conley, beating in Jon Claflin’s chest.

Sue Ellen Monaghan listens with a stethoscope to the heart of her son, Tim Conley, beating in Jon Claflin’s chest. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

But in his world, his mom was No. 1.

“Timmy was the love of my life,” says Sue Ellen. “His dad passed away when he was three and a half. It was him and I forever.”

His best pal was his cousin Willie Joy. They were born two months apart and spent the first year of their lives in the same playpen.

“Even though he was a skinny little runt, he was tough as nails,” says Joy.

That skinny kid grew into a 6-foot-3 and 230-pound young man. He was a natural athlete who played basketball, football and lacrosse at Deering High School, where he graduated in 2008.

Tim loved sports and music, camping and fishing. But nothing mattered more to him than family.

“When we were all together, that’s when he was the happiest,” Joy says. “We’d laugh ’cause … he’d come up to you and give you a hug and we’d say, ‘Get off me, Timmy!’ He was so big he’d squeeze the life out of you.”

He wasn’t always an angel, Sue Ellen says, but he always tried to do the right thing.

“He pretty much did not put up with people picking on other people,” she says. “He got in a fight in high school because some kids were picking on the kids in the functional life skills class.”

In August, when Sue Ellen married Peter Monaghan, Tim wrote a note to her on Facebook.

“Mom, words can’t describe how happy I am for you. … I wish you and Peter a lifetime of happiness. … You are my hero and I hope to be as strong as you one day.”

Two months later, on Oct. 25, Tim hit his head while working at Home Depot. He went to bed that night and never woke up.

His brain injury was catastrophic. There was no hope. But there was an opportunity for grace. Tim Conley was an organ donor.

• • • • •

On Oct. 31, Jon Claflin, a father of two who lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with yet another emergency related to his failing heart.

Jon Claflin speaks about what it was like to be on the heart transplant waiting list, and how much it changed his life to receive organ donor Tim Conley’s heart after Conley passed away in Portland last fall. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Jon Claflin speaks about what it was like to be on the heart transplant waiting list, and how much it changed his life to receive organ donor Tim Conley’s heart. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Jon, who works for an insurance company, had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2012.

“There were blood clots in my heart and (it) was pumping at 15 percent efficiency,” Claflin says. “I got to the point where I could walk maybe 100 feet and that was it. I was out of breath constantly. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t go anywhere. It was devastating.”

Trips to his family’s cabin in Farmington were no longer possible.

Within a year, his condition was so dire he had been moved up on the transplant list.

Claflin was at the hospital with his wife, Sue, when they got the news.

“We were literally in the emergency room,” Sue says, “and they came in and they’re like, ‘We have a donor.'”

But Jon says there was no celebration.

“My first thought was that someone had died,” he says. “I don’t know how to explain that feeling.”

Neither does his wife.

“It’s the strangest dichotomy,” she says, “where you get this incredible, awesome news that saved (Jon) but as the result of what (the donor’s family) had to go through.”

• • • • •

Sue Ellen spent five days at Maine Medical Center, rarely leaving her son’s side. On Oct. 31, Tim was declared brain-dead.

Family photographs of Tim Conley. When Conley died, his heart, liver, kidney and pancreas helped save four people. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Tim Conley’s picture still sits with the other family photographs. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

A donation coordinator and family services coordinator from New England Organ Bank helped facilitate the donation of his organs. Sue Ellen says she will never forget the kindness and compassion of those two women.

“Her name was Laura, and she said, ‘Well, I’m here because your son is a hero.'”

Hearing those words made all the difference.

“I felt like they cared and that they would take great care of him. And they really did.”

On Nov. 1, Tim Conley’s heart was transplanted into Jon Claflin’s chest. The six-hour surgery, performed by a cardiac surgeon and a transplant team, took place at Brigham and Women’s. Jon was among 2,655 people in the United States to have heart transplant surgery last year; more than 4,100 people are on a waiting list for a heart donor.

Tim’s organ donations saved three other lives that day, too. His liver went to a 52-year-old woman. A 53-year-old man got his pancreas and a kidney. A woman in her 60s got his other kidney.

Knowing that her son helped save four lives is the only thing that keeps Sue Ellen from drowning in a sea of grief.

“Part of my son is still alive,” she says. “So you can say that my son passed away on October 31, but he is still living in Jon Claflin. His heart is still beating, and I’m his mother, and that to me is everything. It’s everything.”

• • • • •

The New England Organ Bank urges organ recipients in the 12 transplant centers it serves to write a thank-you letter to the donor’s family shortly after a transplant. The letter is reviewed by the organ bank’s staff to make sure there is no identifying information.

Jon Claflin and his wife, Sue Claflin, surrounded by the family of Tim Conley and Sue Ellen Monaghan, talk about how their lives have been changed by Conley’s donated heart. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Jon Claflin and his wife, Sue Claflin, are surrounded by the family of Tim Conley and Sue Ellen Monaghan while they talk about how their lives have been changed by Conley’s gift of organ donation. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

“We contact (the donor family) and ask if they’d like to receive it,” says Laura Dempsey, the organ bank’s communications and development coordinator. “A lot of people are so eager to hear back, but we have to make sure this is handled with care and sensitivity. You can’t predict how someone is going to respond to something like this.”

In Jon’s letter to Tim Conley’s family, he thanked them for their “amazing generosity and kindness at a time that must have been filled with grief and sorrow.”

“I know that there are rules regarding what I can say, but there are no rules regarding what I feel,” he wrote. “And more than anything I simply want to thank you for giving me this second chance at life. My wife and I recently became grandparents and have a beautiful granddaughter. Without this heart transplant, I doubt I would have seen her reach two years old. Now seeing her graduate from college is a very real possibility for me.”

In early April, Jon and Sue Ellen each signed a form agreeing that the organ bank could release their respective contact information.

She emailed him April 18, and he wrote back right away.

“I said, ‘I’m available any time (to meet),'” Jon says, “and she said ‘How about next Saturday?'”

One week later Jon, his wife and son, Sam, left their home in Massachusetts for the two-hour drive to Portland.

• • • • •

The Claflins have been at Tim’s grandparents’ house for only a few minutes when more relatives begin to arrive, some with babies in their arms.

The family of Tim Conley and Sue Ellen Monaghan gather to meet Jon Claflin, who was critically sick with congestive heart failure before receiving Conley’s heart. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

The family of Tim Conley and Sue Ellen Monaghan gather to meet Jon Claflin, who was critically sick with congestive heart failure before receiving Conley’s heart. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

As the visitors are enveloped in a receiving line of hugs, Tim’s aunt Deborah Jendrasko stands at one end of the kitchen, taking in all the commotion.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” she says. “Isn’t it amazing that one family’s tragedy can be another family’s miracle?”

Their grief is still raw. Tim’s cousin Willie is getting married in August. He’s not going to have a best man.

“Tim was my best man,” he says quietly.

But there are also times like this, moments of release and acceptance.

The house is now jam-packed with family and friends. Tim’s grandmother, Nancy Hayman, is urging everyone to sit and eat. The amount of food on the kitchen table – including Hayman’s famous meatballs and tomato sauce – could feed a small army.

But there’s one last thing Sue Ellen wants to do before dinner.

“This means a lot to me,” she says to Jon.

She reaches for a box at the end of the table. As she pulls out a stethoscope, conversation stops. She adjusts the earpieces and gently places the stethoscope on Jon’s chest.

She leans against him, tears streaming down her face. He puts his arm around her and pulls her close as she listens to the beat of her son’s big heart.