An Alabama woman surprised her cancer-stricken grandmother with a gift that brought her close to her late husband, a gesture that left the beloved matriarch in tears.
Frances Jones’ tight-knit family immediately rallied around the 79-year-old mom and grandma when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer several weeks before Christmas.
But one person was notably absent as Frances began her fight against cancer: Her husband of 56 years, Leroy Jones.
“I wanted him to be there for her,” said Frances’s granddaughter, 22-year-old Maddie Smith. “I was going to do a chemo care package… and I thought, ‘What if I got one of his shirts and put it on a blanket?’ It would be like he was there for her.”
Under the guise that she wanted one of her grandfather’s shirts for herself, Maddie sat down with her grandmother — affectionately known as MawMaw — to pick out a piece of clothing with sentimental value.
“I asked, ‘Which one do you remember him wearing the most?’ and she said, ‘Oh, he was always in this one. He loved this one the most,’” Maddie recalled.
With the help of her aunt, Maddie sewed the shirt and fabric together to make the special blanket she later presented to her grandmother for Christmas.
“I was so excited about it because it ended up looking really good!” Maddie said with a laugh. “And it really felt like my grandpa was there.”
Eager to see her grandmother’s reaction, Maddie was filming as she opened her gift as the rest of the Oklahoma-based family looked on.
“I didn’t even have wrapping paper to wrap the present, so I wrapped it in another blanket, and she’s cracking up because she had gotten like five other blankets from people,” Maddie said. “But then she sees it... I explained the thought behind it, that it’ll be like he’s there, and it was one of those moments that no one expects; it just consumes you.”
The camera continued rolling as the laughter turned to tears, and Frances broke down with gratitude and emotion.
“In that moment, we all started thinking of her, but also my grandpa, and God, how much we missed him,” Maddie said. “And just see how bad she wanted him there. You could see how much they loved one another.”
Leroy Jones passed away in February 2014. The couple grew up together, and after college and a stint in the Army that took Leroy away for several years, the pair bumped into each other at the town library.
“He asked to take her home, and the next week called her and asked her to go to the rodeo — a great first date — and the next week they went to a drive-in movie, where he proposed,” Maddie said. “Two dates and they were engaged.
“I always said, ‘MawMaw that’s so weird!' If a guy ever proposed on a second date I’d think he was a psychopath and she’d say, ‘I liked him and we had a lot of things in common!’” Maddie laughed. “And he’d say, ‘I liked her and she had the best figure in the whole town so I figured why not! And she’s still got the best figure in the whole town!’”
Though the couple’s retelling of their courtship had a comically practical tone, they remained attached at the hip until Leroy’s passing.
“They did everything together; they were never apart,” Maddie said. “They maybe spent two or three nights apart in their whole marriage. They just loved each other so much. Our whole family strives and wants that for themselves. I can’t even imagine what she’s gone through.”
But Frances’s resolve is strong, her granddaughter said, confident that if anyone can beat cancer, it’s her grandma. The family is awaiting results from a PET scan and plans to be by her side as she undergoes radiation next.
“She’s got extremely high spirits,” Maddie said. “I know she wishes my grandpa was here, but she does want to fight this. We have faith that it’s all going to work out.”