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Wrong text strangers hold mini Thanksgiving to honor loved one who died from COVID-19

Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 3:00 AM EST
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MESA, Ariz. (KPHO) - An Arizona woman grieving for her husband is finding solace in a Thanksgiving tradition with a young man who became like a grandson to her after she accidentally texted him four years ago.

In 2016, Wanda Dench thought she texted her real grandson to come over for Thanksgiving dinner, but she accidentally texted a random teenager named Jamal Hinton. Nonetheless, the two have celebrated the holiday together ever since.

But this year, COVID-19 changed everything when it took Wanda’s husband, Lonnie Dench, in March.

Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench have celebrated Thanksgiving together ever since she accidentally...
Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench have celebrated Thanksgiving together ever since she accidentally texted the then-teenager instead of her real grandson in 2016.(Source: KPHO via CNN)

The widow knew her first Thanksgiving without him would be hard, but Jamal and his girlfriend, Mikaela, wanted to make sure Wanda wouldn’t be lonely this holiday.

They had an early mini Thanksgiving on Friday with Wanda, her daughter and her actual grandson. A seat and candle were left at the head of the table because even though Lonnie wasn’t there, his spirit still was.

“I didn’t want to miss Thanksgiving with Jamal,” Wanda said. “This year is definitely different than all the years in the past.”

A seat and candle were left at the head of the table to honor Lonnie Dench, who died from...
A seat and candle were left at the head of the table to honor Lonnie Dench, who died from COVID-19 in March.(Source: KPHO via CNN)

Lonnie would always say grace before the Thanksgiving meal. He was Wanda’s biggest cheerleader.

This year, in his honor, Wanda led the prayer, surrounded with family by blood and family by choice.

“Thank you for all the blessings and thank you so much for having Lonnie in my life. I miss him, but I know he’s in a good place. So, to everybody here, I love you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving,” she said.

Jamal says he’s thankful that Lonnie welcomed him into the home with open arms after that wrong text so many years ago.

Copyright 2020 KPHO via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.