When Albert’s Pizza in Ronkonkoma, New York, decided to pay it forward, they never knew that with the help of a pizza, they’d be able to change one man’s life. But they wanted to try. But it worked. People started jumping onto the campaign and buying pizzas for people they felt deserved a little something extra, like a slice of pepperoni or cheese.
Locals gifted pizzas to single mothers and police officers as well as locals who had recently gone through hardship. Dennis Kust was one of those. As a widower, he lost his wife to a tragedy. When he walked into Albert’s Pizza, he never expected to get his pizza pie free of charge. But he did. But that wasn’t all that happened to him.
Because the 59-year-old man had lost his wife to a long battle with cancer, he was down and out. During the final months of her life, she kept telling Kust one thing over and over again. She said, “You have to be strong. You have to be strong.” But when cancer finally took her away from him, he didn’t have the will to live. He just wanted to give up and lose hope. He was done with it all and was ready to hang up the towel on life.
Although Kust tried to keep his wife’s dying words in his mind, he didn’t have the willpower to push forward. He was losing his will to live.
That’s why he accepted the free pizza with a smile. But it was a hollow smile. While it was a nice surprise to get a free pizza, it wasn’t going to turn his life around. He returned home with the pizza, and when he opened the box, he noticed something that he described as a miracle.
On the inside of the pizza box, there was a handwritten note that mirrored his wife’s final words. Because of that message, it simply “turned his life around.” Knowing that his wife was always with him in spirit, gave him the courage to keep going despite how hard things were.
Although the donor of the free pizza was anonymous, it gave Kust the strength he needed. It said, “From one family to the other… Stay Strong.”
Those were his wife’s final words as she battled through cancer and ultimately succumbed to it. Although she was the one who was sick, it was Kust whose spirit was eroded from the disease. He hated seeing his wife become a shell of her former brightly glowing self. But the message on the pizza box gave Kust a new lease on life. It helped him see that there was hope for the future, even if he had to go forward alone.
“I wasn’t crying because I was sad anymore. I was crying because I felt like I got a message from (my wife).”
Kust returned to the store to thank them for their pay it forward campaign. He then gave them a letter, explaining how the free pizza had saved his life.
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