A young couple was eating a normal dinner at Cicco’s restaurant in Barrie, Ontario, but when they finished their meals, they received a pleasant surprise.
The staff informed them that the meal was free—a stranger had picked up the bill.
They happily accepted the free meal. But the offer also came with a note…and the couple learned the heartbreaking reason behind the generosity.
The stranger’s wife had just died, and the couple reminded him of their marriage.
“You don’t know me, but my beautiful wife of 43 years died last week,” the grieving stranger, named Lee Ballantyne, wrote on a napkin.
“Tonight I dined alone for the first time,” he explains. “You remind me of us many years ago.”
He believes that these acts of kindness are something his wife would have appreciated. The only thing he asked of the couple is that they “pay it forward.”
The note went viral after it was shared on Reddit. Many were inspired by the act, but others were skeptical it had happened at all.
So Lee’s son logged on and set the record straight—explaining that it was true.
“Mom died on Dec. 30. Dad went to dinner last night and then told me this morning about what he did,” he wrote. “A friend sent us the link to the photo that had been uploaded here.”
“That’s my dad’s abysmal handwriting.”
Lee later gave his own account of what had happened, telling Today that he was overwhelmed by emotion, and made the sudden decision to pay for the meal.
“I just wanted to write what I felt at the time so I scrawled it on a napkin.”
He said it wasn’t just to help out the strangers—it was something to make himself feel better, too.
“It was just a simple gesture and it seemed like an ideal time to do that,” he told Today. “I guess I had a selfish motive, I wanted to make myself feel good.”
“And it did for a while. It still does.”
The restaurant’s owner, Lindsay Weiss, also recalled the scene—describing it as incredibly emotional for everyone.
“They were beyond touched and grateful,” she told Today. “I cried. The waitress and chef cried.”
“It was one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever witnessed.”
Carol died in 2014 at the age of 62, after years of suffering from a number of diseases. Besides her husband, she left behind three children and five grandchildren.
Lee is thrilled that the photo went viral—simply because he hopes it brought people to his late wife’s memory.
“My wife’s strength and joy of life is now known to millions of people just because of that gesture, so I accomplished something there,” he told Today.
“I’m glad people got to know a little about Carol.”