Gordon Draper, the owner of Bondgate Books in Bishop Auckland, England, was going through a stack of books at his store when an envelope containing a handwritten letter slipped out from between some pages.
“Bethany,” the letter began, “If your dad is reading this to you, it is because I have died and gone to heaven to live with the angels.”
The letter was folded with an old photo of a woman with short hair and glasses, a young girl circled in her embrace.
It was a remarkable find, and Draper knew he needed to find the daughter it belonged to so he could return her dying mother’s message.
“I don’t think there’s anybody out there that won’t be moved from reading the letter,” Draper told CNN.
Draper made an appeal to a local paper, and, miraculously, the woman responded.
‘She had no words’
Bethany Gash’s mother had died in 2001 and left behind the letter, which, as promised, was read aloud to her by her father.
Gash was reunited with the letter, and Draper said it was an extraordinary moment. “She was over the moon, she had no words, and it was fantastic.”
When all the pieces were put together, Draper recalled that Gash’s mother was actually a regular at his store.
He told CNN she was “really kind, generous” and “one of my best customers.”
Gash told the BBC her mother had bought a lot of books, and over time Gash had a feeling she had lost track of some of them.
Draper’s store also has a program that encourages customers to bring back books for a future discount, which explains how the book and its precious contents found their way back into Draper’s hands.
‘I will always love you’
The letter itself is, from first word to last, absolutely devastating.
“I will always be in the sky making sure you are alright and watching over you so when you see a bright star…that’s me,” Gash’s mother wrote.
“I will always love you, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong to talk about me because it’s not,” she continued. “I hope you don’t forget me because I’ll always be your mam.”
It only seems fitting that Gash’s mother’s words have been resurrected in the most unforgettable fashion.
Draper says finding the letter, meeting Gash and realizing that her mother was a loyal customer of the store has made for an “out of the world experience.”
“When I read the letter itself, it feels like an arrow is piercing straight through my heart,” Draper says. “People don’t always get the opportunity to say goodbye and through finding and returning the letter, I felt as though I was a part of the farewell.”
Full text of the letter
Bethany (My little treasure)
If your dad is reading this to you It is because I have died and gone to heaven to live with the angels. My chest was very poorly and I had an operation to make it better but it didn’t work. I will always be in the sky making sure you are alright and watching over you. So when you see a bright star like in the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that’s me. Be a good girl and live a long happy life your ad and Granda will look after you and take you to school. I will always love you and don’t let anyone tell you its wrong to talk about me because its not. I hope you dont forget me because I’ll always me your mam. Lots of hugs and kisses.
PS I’m depending on you to look after Rosie for me now. Don’t forget her will you not.
By AJ Willingham and Mahatir Pasha