All she wanted to do was help her cancer-ridden fiance beat the disease and get married to him. But even after his death, she was still receiving tokens of love from him.
It was supposed to be the most beautiful and happiest day of Danielle Cumberworth's life. She was going to walk down the aisle, look into her fiance, Ashley Grant-Smith's eyes and utter the words that would bind them together before their kiss would seal the deal. But what was meant to be a joyful day never arrived, because the day before the wedding, her 27-year-old fiance passed away. Unbeknownst to Danielle though, he had left her something that she would cherish forever.
According to The Sun, the couple first met while they had been holidaying separately in Crete, Greece in 2015. At the time, Ashley showed her a tiny lump on his back but claimed that it was nothing serious and that he was on antibiotics for it. Though they weren't exclusive during their holiday, after they returned and with both of them living in the UK close to each other, they stayed in touch and soon started dating.
Recalling how they first met, Danielle said to Mirror UK, “I was playing a drinking game with my friends while sitting by the pool, and Ashley and a mate pulled up a sun-lounger. We got on well and stayed as a group for the rest of the holiday." As for introducing her to the family, she said that during a family event, “He announced me to his family as his girlfriend and I pretty much went with that. That was typical of Ashley – he just went for it and all of sudden we were a couple.”
However, a year later in April 2016, Ashley's health took a turn for the worse when the "tiny lump" had grown bigger. Doctors informed him that he had a rare blood disease known as peripheral T-cell lymphoma. Unwilling to leave his side, the couple moved in together while Ashley underwent his treatments. Though a stem cell donor was eventually found to enable the 27-year-old to have a transplant, he fell extremely ill, affecting his chances of having the operation to be carried out.
But due to fundraising from his family and girlfriend, he was able to have the operation done privately until a few months later, tests revealed that Ashley's cancer was terminal. Danielle said, “I was there in the hospital room with him and his mum and dad and sister when the doctors gave him the news. I was just numb." Given the choice to stay in the hospital or move back home, it was a no-brainer — he was going back home, where his mother and fiance would take care of him.
And one day, while on the subject of death, "I asked him if he had any regrets in life and he said, ‘Not being able to marry you,’" said Danielle. "So we set about putting that right and we were both looking forward to the big day, but we never made it.”
According to Mirror UK, just the day before the wedding was to happen, as Danielle was at the registration office getting documents sorted out, she got a call from her fiance's father. The love of her life had passed away.
“I went into Leicester to get the paperwork sorted. I knew Ashley had had a rough night, but I had to go to get into town to get the go-ahead for the wedding the next day - October 10. As soon as I stepped inside the register office, I got a call from Ashley’s dad. He told me to come back as soon as I could. I knew then that Ashley had died. When I got back to this parents' house he was just lying there. It was awful.”
So instead of marrying the man she loved, Danielle had to wipe away tears of grief. But what she didn't know was that Ashley had had something else up his sleeve before he passed. Around two months after his death, the devastated bride received a parcel. Inside it was a token of love, almost as if her beloved had sent it to her from beyond the grave — it was an engagement ring.
According to the Daily Mail, Danielle said, "Two months after Ashley died, I got home from work and had missed a parcel being delivered. I went to the sorting office and picked it up. I opened it up in the car in the car park and it was an engagement ring from Ashley. It was total surprise. I didn't cry, I laughed. He had not told me about it at all. It is a beautiful diamond ring in white gold."
Though she had been to Leicester city to arrange for the wedding bands they would don, she had no idea that Ashley had ordered a customized engagement ring. She told Leicestershire Manchester, “The ring had taken months to get to me because he had had it specially made to his own design. I will treasure it forever, and our wedding rings that were never used.”
During his wake in his hometown, hundreds of mourners came to show their love and support. Danielle spoke at the wake and said, “Ashley was a lifelong Leicester City fan. He would have loved the fact that we had his wake at the King Power Stadium. He was a Leicester lad through and through, and I feel lucky that I got time with him. I am sad we didn’t get to say our wedding vows to each other, but I have the rings to keep. We had a relatively short time together but it has given me so many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”