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.
“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.
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.”