Elderly Man Heartbroken Every Christmas After the Passing of His Wife — Then, He Receives Something Shocking in the Mail
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Christmas is a joyous time for many but for those grieving the loss of a loved one, the season can be quite the opposite.
For one Rhode Island man, Christmas is particularly difficult, and the entire month of December reminds him of his late wife who adored the holiday season. Her passing caused Dowling to dread December, which was once his favorite month.
“She was Christmas,” 95-year-old George Dowling told the Washington Post. After struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, Dowling’s wife of 70 years passed away in 2013. “She did everything big; all the cooking and baking.”
Sadness Leads George’s Daughter to an Idea
Lucille Dowling, who had Alzheimer’s disease, loved everything about Christmas. She decorated their Christmas tree, and their entire Pawtucket, Rhode Island home, the day after Thanksgiving, and had Christmas baking going constantly.
“He’s only been with one woman in his whole life, and she’s gone. When December 1st hits, my dad gets really sad.” explained Dowling’s daughter, Suzan Brito.
To help lift Dowling’s spirit during the jovial season, Brito came up with a creative idea – asking strangers to send Christmas cards to her dad. The nonagenarian loves receiving mail and looks forward to the mail carrier’s arrival each day.
It was 2014 when Brito, a retired nurse, first put out the social media request to send holiday cards to her father. But in 2022, the response they received was beyond her wildest dreams – over 15,000 cards!
“Grandpa George”, as he is often called, excitedly reads every card and tapes them proudly to his walls.
The cards arrive from around the globe and are from people of all ages and ethnicities.
“It’s just amazing. These people – I can’t even thank them enough! He gets so sad, and this just perks him up,” Suzan told WJAR.
Extra Effort Required for the World to Know
During the first year, 2014, Dowling, a Second World War Navy veteran, received 30 cards.
“It carried him through the whole month of December,” said Brito.
But in 2021, he received only 14 cards.
“It did not carry him,” said Brito sadly. “He’s suffering because he misses my mom.”
“This year (2022), I was like, I’m not going to let that happen again,” Brito said. “My dad is my best friend.”
To help “Grandpa George” get more Christmas cards in 2022, his children shared their message earlier and more widely on their social media accounts. The call quickly went viral on TikTok and Facebook and made the local news.
Dowling received a whopping 11,500 cards in only ten days!
“I’ve never seen so many cards,” exclaimed Dowling to the Washington Post. “It feels really good.”
Dowling’s family were astonished. “This is the biggest, best thing that could ever happen to him,” Brito said. “It’s just going on and on. We’re averaging 2,000 cards a day!”
The Whole Globe Took Part
Cards have arrived from across North American, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, South America, and Asia.
Many senders found themselves relating to the grief felt my many at Christmas.
“My father’s name was George, he passed six years ago, and he loved Christmas,” one woman from Alabama wrote the family. “It hasn’t been the same until this year when I happened upon ‘your George.’”
“I wanted to say thank you. It has been such a blessing to me and brought back a lot of my Christmas spirit to try and help you with this,” she explained. “You and ‘your George’ have helped me enjoy this Christmas more than any of the last six.”
Dowling excitedly waits on his front porch each day for the mail carrier’s delivery. Reading the cards helps “keep my mind busy” and reminds him that “people are good.”
Dowling, who has four children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, told the Washington Post that he still misses his wife dearly, but that the kind messages in every Christmas card made his December “a happy one.”
Dowling has received more than Christmas cards. He has been sent presents, an ornament from the White House Historical Association, and letters from local officials. His hometown police force even arranged a drive-by parade outside his home!
Grandpa George Is a Local Celebrity
“It’s been crazy,” said Brito, who said her dad has been stopped on the streets and at stores by people who have heard about his story.
“He’s very quiet and shy, but everywhere we go, people say ‘Grandpa George!’” said Brito, who cares for her father full-time. “People ask him for his autograph. People are taking pictures with him. It’s making him so happy.”
Dowling’s favorite card arrived from a four-year-old girl named Nina, who wrote “I love you, George. You’re my best friend. Merry Christmas!”
“It’s unbelievable,” said Dowling, adding that there are too many cards to respond to by hand, but he is sincerely grateful for each one.
While he still misses his wife, he said, the overwhelming and heartwarming show of support from people near and far made his holiday season a joyful one.