Twenty-nine years ago today, on Sept. 12, 1994, George Jones had a birthday to remember, even if it wasn't the way he had hoped: It was on that date that the singer had triple bypass surgery at Nashville's Baptist Hospital, where he remained hospitalized for one week.

Jones was rushed to the hospital the night before, and the doctors discovered blockages in three of his arteries. But while the Possum may not have voluntarily chosen a hospital stay as the way to celebrate his big day, the country music community rallied around him during his recovery.

"Waylon Jennings also came in," Jones recalled to Country Weekly. "And Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire sent enough flowers to start a nursery. When the chips are down, there's no denying that country stars are there for each other."

Opry legend Connie Smith also visited, spending Jones' birthday with his wife, Nancy, in the waiting room.

As it turns out, the health scare might have been Jones' best birthday gift of all: After his surgery, the Country Music Hall of Fame member devoted his life to making healthier choices.

"I'm walking, talking ... and generally living life at a slower pace," he said.

Still, Jones went right back to work after his operation. His album The Bradley Barn Sessions, featuring collaborations with Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Tammy Wynette, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton and others, was released one month later, on Oct. 11.

Jones died on April 26, 2013, from complications from a respiratory illness. He was 81 years old.

This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski. 

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