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This Woman Played One Final Joke On Her Husband Before She Died Of Cancer And It's Taken Him Years To Figure It Out

"It's brought my mum back to life for him — just for a moment."

Posted on January 19, 2018, at 12:00 p.m. ET

Antonia Nicol is a 46-year-old firefighter with the London Fire Brigade in England. Her late mother, Phedre Fitton, had been living in Johannesburg, South Africa, with Antonia's dad Nigel before she died in 2013 from cancer.

Antonia Nicol

Since her mom's death, Antonia has been tirelessly traveling from her home in London to visit her dad in Johannesburg and spend more time with him. Most recently, she has helped him transition into his new life in a retirement home. "It was very difficult," she told BuzzFeed News.

Antonia Nicol

Sadly, because she and her parents live so far from each other, she was unable to spend as much time with her mother as she would have liked before her death. Phedre had been living with cancer for five years.

"When she died, I was on the plane on my way over, so I never got the chance to say goodbye," Antonia said.

"My dad stayed in the house as it was for a couple of years. He didn't want to change anything."

Antonia said one of Phedre's last directives to Nigel before she was admitted to the hospital about four years ago were "strict instructions to water the plants in the bathroom." So Nigel has been "religiously" watering this plant. He's been very proud of himself for not only keeping the plant alive, but doing so well that the plant looks vibrant today.

Nigel Fitton

Well, when Antonia flew to Johannesburg to help her dad pack and move to the retirement home, they both finally noticed something. The plant in the bathroom was plastic. It was a fake plant.

Dea / Getty Images

(That's a stock image — Antonia explained that she did not snap a photo of the full plant when she returned to London to share the story.)

"[It] had been in a purposely built plant holder that had a little drain but my mum must have replaced the real plants with plastic ones," she said.

Antonia said she and her dad instantly knew this was all part of Phedre's unique sense of humor, and she'd deliberately asked her dad to make sure to water this one plant in the bathroom as a joke.

"It was so funny when we found out — we laughed so much," Antonia said. "It was like she was there with us again."

Antonia Nicol

She also said she could "hear [her] mum chuckling" over her a joke she planted — pardon the pun — that's lasted years.

This week, Antonia decided to share this moment on Twitter, where it's gone viral.

@Flaminhaystack I was actually welling up til the punchline!!!

People say they're tearing up over the joke itself, and over the sweet and unique tribute to Phedre.

Life was meant to be LOVED. Don't take anything too seriously, or too harshly, because we all die in the end. The o…

Note: Antonia also used a stock image of a plant (which some people are using against her to call the validity of her story into question) but she said it was just a visual. After the tweet went viral, she asked her dad to take a photo of himself "watering" the plant. (So, internet sleuths, good job, but calm down.)

People are hailing Phedre a "legend" and an inspiration.

@Flaminhaystack OMG! What a legend! Sorry to hear of your loss <3

Me as a wifey, aspire to be this extra

Others who've lost family who had a similarly "wicked" sense of humor really related.

@Flaminhaystack Sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my lovely mum last year, she was 85. But she would've loved that…

One person shared their own unique and silly story. "The comments coming out on the tweet about other people who have lost loved ones makes it even more beautiful," Antonia said. "People are connecting over a shared feeling of love and loss."

@Flaminhaystack Before my mom died we made a picture with the whole family there she is sitting in the middle of al…

She added that her dad, who is recovering from a serious operation, knows about the surprising impact and laughs the story has caused, and it's touched his heart.

This one gave me a genuine smile from ear to ear.

"It's brought my mum back to life for him — just for a moment," she added.

Antonia Nicol

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.