Years after grandma texts the wrong person Thanksgiving details, Judy Dench and Jamal Hinton are still in each other’s lives. But this year’s Thanksgiving gathering will be bittersweet after tragedy leaves one chair empty.
In 2016, Wanda Dench, an Arizona grandmother of six, meant to text details of her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner plans to her grandson. But the grandma texts the wrong person for Thanksgiving instead.
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And the inspiring short story quickly went viral.
The person Wanda actually texted was a 17-year-old high school senior, Jamal Hinton. Not recognizing the number, Jamal asked who was texting him. Wanda still didn’t realize her mistake, so she replied “your grandma.”
Jamal asked for proof and Wanda sent a photo of herself. Jamal replied with a photo of himself, revealing the grandma had texted the wrong person about Thanksgiving. He jokingly asked, “Can I still get a plate, though?”
And it was the grandma’s gracious response that made the inspirational story an internet sensation!
Stranger Comes To Thanksgiving After Grandma Texts The Wrong Person
Wanda Dench didn’t miss a beat. She immediately extended an invite to the stranger she’d mistakenly texted.
“Of course you can,” she replied. “That’s what grandma’s do. Feed everyone.”
Somebody grandma is coming in clutch this year!! Ayee!!! pic.twitter.com/QGrx83nHLl
- Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 15, 2016
Jamal was deeply touched by this act of kindness. And two days later, Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton met in person. And that’s when Wanda assured the young man her invitation was for real.
She truly wanted him to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner. And Jamal accepted, showing up at her house with a plate full of turkey!
“He was just as nice as can be,” Wanda said “We got to eat food, and he told me about his plans for the future and I’m just so excited for him.”
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This unlikely friendship took the Internet by storm and warmed hearts all over. But it also proved the grandma’s text to the wrong person for Thanksgiving was a case of divine intervention.
Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton have remained close since their accidental introduction in 2016. They continue getting together each year for Thanksgiving.
As promised! Here's our 2019 update 🦃 @mikaela_autumn pic.twitter.com/hHGZUXYzr3
- Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 29, 2019
But the two stay in touch plenty the rest of the year, too. In fact, Jamal and his girlfriend would regularly go on double dates with Wanda and her husband, Lonnie.
“Whenever we met, we would spend four or five hours, just talking and talking,” Jamal said. “It was never awkward, Wanda and Lonnie became two close best friends to me.”
WATCH: Grandma Texts Wrong Person For Thanksgiving And In 2019, They’re Still Celebrating
Years after the grandma texted the wrong person about Thanksgiving, Wanda Denton and Jamal Hinton are still in each other’s lives. But a 2020 tragedy made the following Thanksgiving gathering bittersweet.
Lonnie, Wanda’s husband of 43 years, passed away in April from complications caused by COVID-19.
“I didn’t believe I would have to go home without him,” Wanda recalled. “Even when he was in the hospital, I thought he would get better and come back to me. He was my soul mate. He was my biggest cheerleader.”
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And so, as the annual Thanksgiving gathering loomed ahead, Lonnie’s empty seat hung in Wanda’s mind.
“I wasn’t looking forward to it at first because Lonnie wasn’t going to be there. The past seven months have been so difficult, but this was really important to me,” she said.
Wanda fought through her overwhelming sorrow and forged ahead with the get-together.
“Lonnie was missing this year, and he was a big part of the Thanksgiving story and a big part of our lives,” Jamal explained. “But that’s one thing Wanda and I know for sure. Lonnie would have been very angry if we didn’t have Thanksgiving together.”
A Bittersweet Thanksgiving Gathering
Despite the pandemic, Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton came together for a Thanksgiving meal, just like they do every year. This time, they gathered early and kept the get-together small. That way, they could go get tested for the coronavirus before celebrating Thanksgiving with their families.
And their time-honored tradition was just what the widow needed in this time of grief.
“I can’t even explain how much joy I had, having good food with my favorite company,” Wanda says. “We laughed, we had a great time, we reminisced about the past. It was so good for all of us.”
Thank you @wandadench for such an amazing celebration! You are such a blessing to this world. We miss you Lonnie💙 pic.twitter.com/7vOlaC4sfp
- Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 26, 2020
Lonnie’s absence certainly didn’t go unnoticed. But the reunion of these unlikely friends helped bring some comfort during a time when the loss is especially poignant.
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“At first it was sad,” Jamal explained. “We had a photo of Lonnie at the table with a candle lit, and we were all shaky in the beginning but it lasted five minutes before we were back to ourselves. We just told jokes and stories and shared our memories of Lonnie, so it was amazing.”
These two families, who started out as complete strangers continue gathering each year. And to think, all of this came about from a grandma texting the wrong person about Thanksgiving details.
We are all set for year 6! 🦃 pic.twitter.com/wEQioizWGd
- Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 14, 2021
Real-Life Story Inspires Netflix Movie: The Thanksgiving Text
God’s plan is truly bigger than we can ever comprehend! In fact, the real-life story of Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench is so inspiring, Netflix is working on turning it into a movie called The Thanksgiving Text.
"We are excited to share our story with the world,” said Jamal and Wanda. “We hope it inspires more people to reach out and make connections that they wouldn't ordinarily make. We are so blessed to find a genuine friendship brought together by God from a mistaken text message.”
I am very excited to announce our new partnership with Netflix. We thank every single one of you for your love and support in our journey the last 6 years. We can't wait to tell our story on the big screen! 🎥🍾 pic.twitter.com/0heCmEWMDM
- Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) December 2, 2021
Talk about a God story!
“Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, has her hope set on God, and continues in petitions and prayers night and day.” 1 Timothy 5:5
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Featured Image: Twitter/Jamal Hinton