DENVER -- A firefighter who recently passed away after battling cancer left a gift of a lifetime to his wife and family.
That gift was given to Chief Troy Jackson’s widow on Christmas Day. It brought her and her children to tears.
It was made possible through an ethical will, which contains recordings and letters to loved ones.
Troy and Lori Jackson's story begins in the 1980s, when they were high school sweethearts. She swore he looked like Superman.
That young man wanted two things: to become a fireman like his father and to marry Lori.
"So, when Troy and I started dating in high school, I got that early exposure to firehouse life," Lori Jackson said.
The firehouse became a way of life for them both. Troy would eventually become an assistant chief at South Metro Fire Rescue.
He would also become a proud father of two. All the while, he helped save lives.
Little did Troy Jackson know, battling those fires would slowly kill him. He was diagnosed with adenoid Cystic Carcinoma six years ago. It’s a cancer common among firefighters.
"People would always say, 'Hey, Chief, you're looking great, way to beat it!' They didn’t know he would never beat this, and it was never in remission. It was just a matter to taking care of what currently was impacting him," Lori said.
In December, Troy Jackson died at the age of 51.
At his funeral was Jackson’s ceremonial last call. But on Christmas Day, more than a week after he died, came one more call: a voicemail from Troy to his wife.
The message said, in part, “Just wanted to say hi, to tell you I love ya, I miss ya, super proud of you. Just been thinking about you and thought you might be thinking about me. Just reminiscing a little bit about how well we did life together."
Troy Jackson had left the call as part of an ethical will, and it was to be played for Lori during her first Christmas Day without him.
"He thanked me for choosing him to do life with him because we were pretty different in high school. Reminded me he was always with me," said a tearful Lori.
Troy Jackson’s recording went on to say, "It was one hell of a run. I can’t tell you how much I love ya. Keep your chin up. I know there will be tough days ahead, but always know I love you more than anything."
A one-minute-and-16-second message -- a love note from heaven from a high school sweetheart that will live forever.