Taylor Thyfault was far more motivated than the average teenager. In high school, he sat down and wrote a list of 25 goals for his life.
In some ways the list is what you’d expect from someone his age—two entries involve wanting to wrestle an alligator and to meet the cast of Jackass—but overall, the list suggests Taylor always had a clear vision of who he wanted to be, and that was to be the best man possible.
Number one on the list was to “Join the Army and be the best that I can be,” 13 was to “get a job,” and 22 was simply to “be there for all of the people that have been there for me.”
Thyfault was killed in 2015, at the age of 21. And while he may not have gotten to accomplish much of his list in his tragically short life, when he died he crossed off one last entry:
“9. Save a life.”
Until then, Thyfault had been living his dreams. He immediately got to work on that list by fulfilling his first entry, and joined the Army at age 18.
But not everyone was thrilled at the decision. His mother, Carole Adler, was understandably hesitant about her son enlisting.
The two had always shared a close bond. “He told me he loved me, and that I was his best friend, and he said ‘Thank you for being my guardian when I needed it, and being my mom when I needed to be set straight,'” she told USA Today.
So ultimately, she understood how important her son’s dream was and gave him her full support.
“Go forward. Be this protector. I know you’re going to succeed,” she told him.
And he did. Thyfault served his country, and by 21 was ready to begin a new career as a Colorado State Trooper.
By May 2015, he was almost finished with his cadet training, and was on assignment with another officer investigating a crash.
He texted his mother to let her know where he was.
But while on the scene, the officers got word that a high-speed chase was headed their way. They deployed stop sticks to try to slow down the impending vehicle.
The car didn’t slow down.
The dangerous scene had one innocent bystander present—a tow truck driver, right in the line of collision. Thyfault shouted at the man to get out of the way, saving his life.
But that heroic deed was his last: the car struck and killed Thyfault.
The tragedy left his mother devastated.
The tragic death of her son and best friend devastated Adler.
“I just screamed, ‘No, not him. Please not him,'” she told USA Today.
She also realized she was the last person he texted, a sad, abrupt end to a seemingly endless exchange.
“Every day, it hits me like a ton of bricks, when I can’t text him,” Adler told 9News. “We’re just that close. Everything that happened in his life was in my life.”
To console herself, Adler would text Thyfault’s number, telling him that she loved him and missed him.
She knew her son would never respond again.
But one night, she received a text back.
A few weeks after her son’s death, Adler sent a particularly long, emotional text to his number—and was shocked when she heard a reply.
No, it wasn’t paranormal activity. But it was a remarkable twist of fate:
“I’m with the Greeley Police Department, and I don’t think your texts are going where you think they are,” the reply read, according to 9News.
It turns out that after his death, Thyfault’s phone number had gone to Greeley Police Sergeant Kell Husley.
After reaching out, Sgt. Greeley offered to get a new phone number. But Adler was struck by the coincidence.
“I am honored that [a] police officer of your credentials has his number,” she responded, according to 9News.
The two strangers made a connection.
They kept in touch. Adler told Greeley about her son, and the sergeant says that hearing about the young fallen hero reminded him of his younger self, and re-energized his career.
“He’s eager. He’s excited, and he’s willing to do a job that can sometimes be really unthankful,” he told 9News.
And Adler continues to memorialize her son, comforted only in the knowledge that he died a hero—the way he would’ve wanted.
“And if you asked him, he’d do it again, because he sacrificed himself, for someone else,” Adler said to 9News.