The gift of life reunites two families for the Thanksgiving holiday

The gift of life reunites two families for the Thanksgiving holiday
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Families dealing with the loss of a loved one can find it difficult to celebrate the holidays.

November is a tough month for Viola Turner. Her deceased son, Albert Spencer's birthday is the day before Thanksgiving.

Albert was just 20-years-old when he died in 2013, after being shot in the head while visiting a friend.

Albert gave the gift of life to James Whibbenmeyer of Perryville, Mo., who suffered from heart failure for 20 years before receiving a heart transplant using Albert's heart.

After learning her son's heart was matched to a recipient, the families kept in touch through the years but had never met in person.

Last year, Region 8 News was there the moment James and Viola met face to face for the first time and Viola got to hear her son's heartbeat.

Both families gathered on Wednesday to celebrate what would have been Albert's 24th birthday and spent the Thanksgiving holiday together on Thursday.

"I'm doing fine," Whibbenmeyer said. "I just had a stress test earlier this month and the heart is doing excellent! I'm just living my daily life and enjoying being with my family and with my extended family."

Turner said her heart was full of joy knowing that she may have lost her son but she gained another family though the gift of life.

"I feel like this is the best thanksgiving gift anyone could have and Christmas gift as well," Turner said. "It is truly a blessing to know that his heartbeat goes on and on even after his death."

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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