Grieving Widow Loses Her Husband A Second Time After Trans-Atlantic Trip to Disney World

An elderly couple, smiling warmly, pose in front of a castle with blue turrets, likely at an amusement park. The woman has short white hair and wears glasses and a white shirt, while the man, also with glasses, wears a yellow polo shirt.
Credit: Disney Dining

A grieving woman visiting the Walt Disney World Resort shortly after her husband’s passing was met with more heartache, losing the love of her life for a second time during her trip to Central Florida.

Related: I Never Dreamed a Disney Film Could Help Me Process the Pain of Loss. Until Now.

magic kingdom via monorail

Credit: Becky Burkett

Disney World Trips Carry Great Meaning For Many Guests

Some people view a visit to Disney World as a “one-and-done”-type scenario. For them, Disney World is a place designed largely for the enjoyment of children rather than adults hoping to revisit the innocence of childhood. Others don’t think about it as deeply, simply deciding for themselves that the costs associated with a trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth just doesn’t afford them enough “magic” to make it worth such an “investment.”

In recent years, the term Disney Adults has been used by non-Disney Adults to describe a cross-section of the population that takes great joy in embracing every part of their Disney fandom, which often includes yearly (or monthly or weekly) pilgrimages to the parks in Central Florida. What those non-Disney Adults don’t often realize is that within the category of people who proudly identify as Disney Adults, there are varying degrees of fandom.

mickey ears

Credit: Brian McGowan/Flickr

For some fans, there’s a set of boxes to be ticked as part of their fandom: Go to Disney World once a year, wear your Disney costume on Halloween, and acknowledge Mickey’s birthday in November and Walt’s birthday in December. Done. For other so-called diehard or super fans, the pomp and circumstance go even further.

For some fans, there’s no crazy hoopla, there are no embarrassing group costumes to be worn, and no one is expected to organize a new cupcake crawl for each trip. These are the fans for whom Disney World holds great significance because of memories made in the parks over the years with the people who mean the most to them.

Such was the story of Gordon Jackson and his wife, Joyce.

A Couple in Love With Each Other & Their Memories at Disney World

Gordon and Joyce Jackson lived in Wales, United Kingdom, and were married on September 26, 1964. Though they lived more than 4,200 miles from Orlando, Florida, trips to the United States to visit the Central Florida Disney Parks quickly became the norm.

A bride and groom smile as they stand outside, dressed in wedding attire. The groom wears a dark suit with a boutonnière, and the bride is in a white gown and veil, holding a bouquet. Both seem joyful as they pose for the photo on their wedding day.

Credit: Joyce Jackson

Like many Disney World fans, the Jacksons even had a favorite Disney World Resort–Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and their frequent trips held a special place in the couple’s hearts.

“Gordon absolutely loved it there,” Joyce Jackson said of her husband. “He would talk to the characters.”

The Jacksons loved going to Disney World, and many of their most cherished memories were made at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Sadly, those trips together are now a thing of the past, as Gordon passed away after a tragic accident in June 2021.

Related: Young Mom Pleads For Help Finding Her Son’s Ashes That Were Lost During Disney Trip

A smiling elderly couple with white hair embraces in front of a castle with blue and white turrets under a partly cloudy sky. The man wears glasses and a yellow shirt, while the woman wears glasses and a white shirt. They seem to be enjoying a sunny day at a theme park.

Credit: Joyce Jackson

Though her heart was broken, Joyce found the strength to make plans to travel to the United States to visit Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort once more–this time without her beloved Gordon–so she could bury his ashes along with the couple’s wedding rings in a garden at the resort hotel that has always held a special place in their hearts and their relationship.

“It wasn’t a pilgrimage,” Joyce said of her trip, “but I wanted to bury some of his ashes and our wedding rings there.”

Losing Gordon a Second Time at Disney World

Joyce arrived at Manchester Airport to board a plane bound for Central Florida. She says that when she got there, she was told she’d need to use the self-service bag drop. So, she proceeded to do as she was instructed. Sadly, a rogue label led to a second loss for Joyce, though she wouldn’t know about it until she landed in the U.S.

“I did that and got a luggage label,” Joyce remembers. “A man put it on. It wasn’t a sticky label where you loop it around a handle and stick both ends together. It was more like a paper one, but it must have come off.”

Related: This Spot at Disney World Will Keep Guests From Illegally Scattering Loved One’s Ashes Inside Attractions

A Virgin Atlantic airplane with a red tail and logo flies above the clouds during sunset. The sky is a mix of orange, pink, and purple hues, casting a warm glow on the aircraft.

Credit: Virgin Atlantic Airlines

Whether the label came off will never be known, but after Joyce landed in Florida, she discovered that airline attendants with Virgin Atlantic had left her suitcase of belongings at Manchester Airport. Gordon’s ashes were among those belongings. Though she says she understands it was an accidental oversight, it must have been heartbreaking for the newly widowed Disney World guest.

“I got to Orlando and no luggage,” Joyce said. “I travel light, and I only had what I was wearing–not even a toothbrush,” Joyce said.

“But the worst thing about it was the ashes and rings were in the suitcase. I know you can’t take a person’s ashes with you, so I only had a few ashes and our wedding rings. I was going to bury them in a garden at Caribbean Beach Resort. The main ashes are in a rose pot in our garden.”

A tropical resort entrance with a red-roofed pavilion surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery. People are walking around and relaxing near the entrance. The sky is clear and bright blue, and the setting exudes a warm, sunny atmosphere.

Credit: Disney Parks

Disney World Hospitality Offers a Helping Hand

“Disney was very good, considering it was not their problem,” she recalls. “They gave me a toothbrush and arranged for a taxi to take me to a supermarket so I could buy hairspray and toothpaste. I also bought three dresses, a T-shirt, and a bag.”

Sadly, Joyce says the airline wasn’t quite as accommodating. According to her account, despite the hardship she faced because her luggage was left behind, Virgin Atlantic seemed very apathetic about the matter.

“It was as if Virgin Atlantic didn’t care,” she said.

Closely cropped image of the side of a Virgin Atlantic airplane in flight, showing part of the fuselage with the "Virgin Atlantic" logo, the British flag, and the engine. The sky is in the background with scattered clouds.

Credit: Virgin Atlantic Airlines

Thankfully, the luggage was located, but it took a duty manager at Orlando International Airport to trace it to the airport in Manchester. After a real-life series of unfortunate events for the grieving widow, one might think she would have given up–but not Joyce.

Despite all that had happened up to that point, including the missed opportunity to bury Gordon’s ashes and their wedding rings, Joyce says she purposed in her heart to make the most of the visit anyway. After all, she was at the place that she and Gordon loved most.

A smiling elderly woman with short white hair and glasses is seated on an airplane. She is wearing a light-colored shirt. The airplane cabin is visible in the background with seats and windows. The lighting inside the plane has a pinkish hue.

Credit: Joyce Jackson

“Gordon would have said, ‘Good on you!'” Joyce said with a smile. “I couldn’t [just] stay in a hotel room. “I did go out every day. I had to enjoy it. I went on the boats and the cable cars. I went to the places that we loved.”

Joyce was sad about not having her luggage with her when she landed, especially because it meant she wouldn’t get to bury her late husband’s ashes or the couple’s wedding rings at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. And she says that trip would be her last one. “I can’t go back because I can’t afford it, and I’m 78.”

A serene lakeside scene at sunset with pink and purple hues in the sky. The water reflects the colorful sky and buildings on the far shore. A wooden pedestrian bridge with a cannon and lush greenery are in the foreground, with trees lining the water's edge.

Credit: Disney Parks

Though she couldn’t bury Gordon’s ashes or their rings, Joyce was able to visit some of the locations at Disney World that meant the most to her and her late husband. Thankfully, she was reunited with her left-behind luggage upon her return to the United Kingdom. Here’s hoping that Joyce continues to enjoy her fond memories of her husband and that she finds peace and comfort in them as well.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

One comment

  1. My heart goes out to her, but why would you put the ashes and rings in checked luggage?

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