On January 12, 2018, Connie Despanie gave birth to her son, Kingston, at Lafayette General Medical Center in Georgia. But she and her partner, Benjamin Hall, were struggling to find the perfect middle name for their little boy. When they received a mysterious note from a total stranger, however, they knew their quest was at an end.
But this story doesn’t begin with that unusual note. In fact, it starts with a completely different family. You see, a woman called Jamie Fontenot was named after her beloved dad, James Lee Grimmett. She has fond memories of her father from childhood and attributed his background in the U.S. Air Force to a firm-but-fair style of parenting.
Reminiscing about her dear dad to TV news channel KADN in January 2018, Fontenot revealed, “He was a good father. We didn’t get away with too much, although we tried.” But while he could be strict, he also had a silly side too.
Recalling some of the happy moments she had shared with her father, Fontenot added, “He would let his little girls put sponge rollers in his hair while he was sitting in a chair acting like he was sleeping.”
These special memories became even more important to Fontenot in January 2018. That’s when her father died at the age of 86. And Fontenot had been by his side at Lafayette General Medical Center when he slipped away.
Recalling those emotional moments, Fontenot later revealed, “After dad passed away we stayed in his room for a little bit, and then the doctor came in and asked us to step into the hallway. When we were in the hallway, we heard a lullaby playing.”
The music in question was coming from the labor and delivery ward. Each time a family welcome a newborn, they can press a red button out in the corridor. This causes a lullaby to ring out throughout the hospital, in celebration of the new birth.
As Fontenot and her family listened to the sweet melody, they reflected on the circle of life. How poignant it was that a baby should have arrived in the world at the same time their father died. That’s when one of Fontenot’s loved ones suggested the newborn was her dad’s angel.
The grieving daughter was so moved by this thought that she reached for a pen and wrote a short letter. She then took her note and delivered it to the birthing unit. Once there, she instructed nurses to hand it to the family of the first baby born after 10:40 a.m. – the time of her father’s death.
That baby belonged to Connie Despanie and Benjamin Hall. The couple had just welcomed a son named Kingston, but were yet to decide his middle name. Little did they know they were about to have inspiration delivered to them in the form of Fontenot’s letter.
Following Kingston’s birth, Doctor Jennifer Pugliese and nurse Cydney Begnaud entered the delivery room and handed new mom Despanie the note. “She started reading it silently and she just had tears streaming down her face, it was really beautiful,” Dr. Pugliese told TV news station CBS News in February 2018.
Fontenot’s moving letter read, “To my dad’s angel, even though I will never know your name, you are the first child born here after my dad’s passing. When one life is taken, another is given. Please keep my dad in your prayers.”
After reading the letter, Despanie and Hall looked at one another and knew the perfect way to honor Fontenot’s father. “I came in, and the dad says, ‘Oh, we found our middle name!’’ the couple’s nurse Begnaud revealed.
However, unable to put two and two together, it took a little while for the penny to drop for Begnaud. “I’m like, ‘All right, what is it?’” she added. “And he says, ‘Well, it’s James of course!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yes, of course!”
Upon hearing Despanie and Hall’s lovely tribute to Grimmett, Begnaud asked their permission to pass their information on to Fontenot. That’s how the doting daughter learned that the couple had named their baby after her dad.
It was a gesture as appreciated as it was unexpected for Fontenot. “A baby was named after my dad… I broke into uncontrollable tears,” she told KADN. And she knew her father would have been equally as honored. “He would be so totally proud,” she said.
When CBS News heard of Fontenot’s story, they brought her together with Despanie as part of their A More Perfect Union program. And the two women couldn’t believe that they had finally come face to face.
In the news report of their emotional meeting, Fontenot told Despanie, “I’m so happy you came,” as she fought back her tears. “I’m happy to meet you,” a clearly-moved Despanie replied. “I didn’t think I was going to meet you.”
During her meeting with Despanie, Fontenot got to hold little Kingston James in her arms. As she did so, she looked down at his sweet face and said, “Family is everything, and if you don’t have faith you don’t have anything.”
So, through her own personal loss, Fontenot got to experience another family’s joy. The two parties have since vowed to keep in touch, convinced that the fates had brought them together. “You just never know when a blessing is going to come and fall in your lap,” Despanie said.