real life

James gave his daughter an old mobile phone. Then he discovered a series of text messages.

A father in the UK has made a heartbreaking discovery on his old phone, which his youngest daughter had been using to play games.

Turns out, she was also using it to send messages to her late grandfather and the texts are achingly sweet.

Journalist and radio presenter James O’Brian posted a photograph of the messages to Twitter, with the caption:

“My youngest has had my old phone for a couple of years. Just for games, which I download for her before disconnecting the internet. Still has my old contacts though and it turns out she’s been messaging my dad, who died five years ago. I may have something in my eye.”

And don’t we all?


The first text message (it appears the phone’s date and time is inaccurate, which can happen with old, reset iPhones) reads:

“I love you granddad, have a great time in heaven. I hope you meet Jesus and I hope you had an amazing life. I absolutely love you and my life could not have been this amazing without you.”

The second message is more of an update, yet still filled with gratitude and love:

“I’m nearly 10 and Elizabeth is 12! She loved your present by the way. Your present was your love.”

The image, of course, has gone viral. With thousands of people sharing emotional stories of their own grief and coping.




The anecdote echos a similar story from writer Jessie Glenn who became a part-time carer to her niece after her brother James died, age 37.

Before his death, James and his ex-wife had shared custody of their 10-year-old daughter Alice and, writing for The New York Times, Glenn told of recreating the girl’s bedroom in her own home and – eventually – finding an email on James’ account from his grieving daughter.


“He wasn’t getting many emails, mostly junk or notices from various lists he had been on — notifications from Alice’s school and alerts about lost neighborhood dogs,” Glenn wrote.

“Then one day a new message popped up: ‘hi dad’.”

Robin Bailey and Bec Sparrow reflect on the concept of death, and speak to professionals about what we can learn from those who have passed. Post continues after. 

Glenn was uncertain, at first, about replying as James. But after talking it over with friends and briefly Alice, too, the pair agreed on a virtual resurrection.

“I searched and read every email and text he had sent her. I studied his punctuation, his cadence, his vocabulary and his endearments. So many exclamation points.”

The story, as Glenn tells it in her piece called Are you there, dad? It’s me, Alice is profoundly moving.

It’s about a little girl and a grown woman holding onto a man they both loved dearly. It doesn’t feel inappropriate, instead natural and healing.

Whether it’s sending your grandfather text messages, or emailing your brother’s daughter as himself. It’s all about moving on without forgetting. And, these days, technology can help make it so.