DALLAS - Stella Montalvo's story doesn't have a happy ending. But in each box in her Bishop Arts apartment there is plenty of hope.
"Jose had a heart of gold and he loved everybody," she said.
Her husband Jose fought a brave battle with cancer. But he lost. After a year-and-a-half fight, he passed away in 2015.
"Everything about my time with him is special to me," Stella said.
And special for them during his long wait in the hospital was a box they received. Sent by their extended family, it was filled with cards and gifts and games to help pass the painful and monotonous hours brought by chemotherapy treatments and stem cell transplants.
Stella specifically remembers a Simpsons board game and one particular question.
"What did Lisa write into Ralph's Valentines card? And Jose said, 'I choo-choo-choose you,'" she said.
He winked at her. They shared a laugh, a kiss, and a brief escape.
"And for that moment I think we both forgot where we were," Stella said. "And we were just together and enjoying each other's company. And that's where these boxes came from. From that one moment of hope that we had."
Stella decided to pay forward that sense of hope. She raised more than $2,000, bought 20 boxes and filled them with gift cards, games, toys, and journals. And Friday at Medical City Health, she delivered the boxes to the 20 patients now fighting the same battle on her husband's former floor.
"If we can give them some kind of joy even for just a few minutes, then that means the world to us as caregivers," Stella said.
"I hope he's proud of me and I know a lot of this came from him," she said. "And I hope that the patients can feel his heart through these gifts."
Gifts to remind patients and their families that it's the small things in life and the brief moments that matter. Because even though Jose lost his battle, he always had hope.
"He did," Stella said. "He really did."
Hope that widow will keep paying forward, one patient, one box at a time.
Montalvo hopes to expand her "Boxes of Hope" effort to additional patients at Medical City Hospital.
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