If Blanche DuBois' words about the kindness of strangers have ever been truly applicable, that time is now.
A letter written to a 4-year-old girl by her dying mother was found by a kind stranger and returned to the grown woman 12 years later.
Gordon Draper – the owner of Bondgate Books in Bishop Auckland, England – found the letter in a stack of secondhand books. He instantly recognized that it was extremely special.
The letter was folded with an old photograph of a woman with short hair and glasses. She had a young girl on her knee, who was undoubtedly her young child.
"Bethany (my little treasure)," the letter begins. "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 goes on to explain,
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.
The dying mother tells her daughter that it's OK to grieve, and that she will always be with her.
I will always love you and don't let anyone tell you it's wrong to talk about me because it's not. I hope you don't forget me because I'll always be your mam.
I'll always be your mam.
Draper realized the importance of this letter, and decided that he must return it.
Here's what the letter said in its entirety:
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 dad 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. Goodbye Mam PS I'm depending on you to look after Rosie for me now. Don't forget her will you not.
Draper wrote into the local newspaper, The Northern Echo. They ran the story on their front page last weekend.
Bethany Gash – who is now 21 years old with a child of her own – was sent the article by a friend. The letter had gotten lost five years after the death of her mother, when the family moved house.
Bethany was overwhelmed.
I thought it could never be found. I really can't describe it because I never thought that the day would come.
When Bethany and Draper got in contact, he realized that they had already met. Draper had met Bethany's mother when she had come into his shop to buy books for her young child.
“She was really poorly when she came in, but she bought lots of books for the kiddie who was just a little girl," he said.
Bethany's mother had been battling cystic fibrosis. She died in 1999, at just 36 years old.
“She really spoiled her with all the 'Beatrix Potter' sets and 'Paddington Bear' books, and could not have emphasized more that books meant a lot and she wanted to leave her something,” Draper added.
But after the move, Bethany never expected to see the letter ever again. “The length which these two gentlemen have gone to reunite me with it is just amazing,” she said.
To honor the memory of Bethany's mother, Draper presented Bethany with a set of "Winnie the Pooh" books for her son, Oliver, just as he had done for her mother more than a decade earlier .
“It's so lovely seeing her again," he said. "She looks like the same little girl I saw in her pram when she was in my shop before.”