real life

A daughter sent a letter to heaven. What happened next is beautiful.

For anyone who has ever lost someone they love. There is hope.

When 16-year-old Ashlynn Marracino released a balloon in memory of her late father, she asked him to send her a sign. What happened next made her believe she got one.

Hundreds of kilometres away, kind strangers are answering what she and her mum call her letter to heaven.

Ashlynn releases a balloon every 6th January — her dad’s birthday —after he died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2008. She writes a long message to him with a marker and watches it go up to the clouds.

Ashlynn Marracino.

“I can write out stuff that I want to tell him. It makes me feel like he would receive it — seeing it go up into the sky and disappear… it feels like a weight has been lifted off your chest," Ashlynn said.

Her mother, who also lost her dad at a young age, had done something similar to help her grieve.

“It was very private and personal. We wrote exactly what we wanted to say,” Robin Godfrey said. So when Ashlynn struggled with her father’s death, Robin encouraged her to let him know what she was feeling in a "letter to heaven."

This year, Ashlynn wrote about how much she loved and missed him, and listed some of the things he’s missed, like her moving to a new school. She told him how she’d love to go to university and how sorry she was she missed his last phone call.

Then, she asked her late dad for a sign.

“I don’t think he’s watching. I just want to know if he is,” Ashlynn told her mum.
The balloon with Ashlynn's message for her dad.

On 6th January, she watched the balloon float away.

The next day, a star-shaped silvery scrap showed up in the parking lot of a restaurant more than 650 kilometres away from Ashlynn’s hometown.

A customer showed it to the restaurant owner. The mystery object, covered with writing and addressed to “Dear Dad,” was signed “I love you.”


“We started reading it, my coworker and I, realised what it was and we got kind of teary,” said Lisa Swisley, the restaurant owner. “It was very sad to us that she was missing her dad so much. I just thought I wanted to reach out to her.”

Ashlynn signed her full name on the balloon, so Lisa looked her up online. She then posted the story on the “Pay It Forward in Auburn” Facebook page and got a big response, with the members offering to send Ashlynn cards and gifts.

Lisa Swisley.

Lisa, who just finished listening to the audio version of the book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” believes it was meant to happen.

The message to me was you can make an impact on people’s lives by doing small things. I felt like the balloon came to me for some reason," she said.

Lisa plans to send the gifts she’s collected for Ashlynn this weekend. Meanwhile, the teen was floored to hear someone found one of her balloons. She “most definitely” believes it’s the sign she was asking for.

“It’s a huge one,” Ashlynn said.

“All this support she’s getting is just amazing,” her mum added. “Maybe we can give hope to some other people, too… they’ll know that our loved ones are watching us.”

Do you believe in signs? Have you ever received a sign from someone you lost?

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