It’s always extremely difficult for a child to deal with the loss of a parent. To ease the pain, kids are often given coping techniques like sending letters to heaven—symbolic gestures that nonetheless help give some closure and let them feel closer to the deceased.
However, for one Texas family, a tribute to their late father turned into something extraordinary, and shows that maybe our late loved ones are up there looking after us after all.
When Skyler Retting died last year, he left behind two young daughters—6-year-old Story and 7-year-old Gypsy—devastated by his loss.
“We’re still thinking about him and that we love him and miss him,” Gypsy told WFAA.
“He was caring and loving and silly,” their mother, Tori Western, said. “He loved being a dad.”
But a year after their father’s tragic death, and just a day before what would’ve been his birthday, the girls decided to pay a heartwarming tribute.
They attached letters to heaven to a balloon, and released it into the sky.
“Dear Dad, we want to go up with you. We miss you so much. We want to go and hug you and do all of the things you do,” Story’s note read.
“Dear daddy, I miss you so much. If you get this balloon then you are the best,” said Gypsy’s. “I love you and Story too. Please watch over me and everyone in the family.”
After releasing the balloons, their father seemed to give them a message from the beyond:
The clouds suddenly formed an “S,” their father’s initial.
“We thought, ‘What a coincidence!'” Western told Inside Edition. “He’s out there and he’s catching that balloon.”
However, just a day after releasing the balloons, the family had an emergency.
A few months ago, Story started suffering from seizures. It got bad enough that she had to be admitted to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.
It was a frightening ordeal, both from the rising medical costs and the revelation that Story might be suffering from a form of epilepsy.
Though just when things seemed hopeless, the balloon made its fateful landing—and while it didn’t quite make it to heaven, it still felt like divine intervention.
The balloon fell into the yard of Lance Dunahoe, a business coach and trainer from Colleyville, four miles from the girls. He discovered the balloon on the way to work one morning, and was touched when he read the heartbreaking notes attached.
“When it lands in your yard, when something kinda falls in your lap, it’s hard to ignore,” Dunahoe told WFAA.
“This message landed in my yard for some reason. I didn’t know what, but I certainly was curious at that point.”
Dunahoe became even more inspired to help when he tracked down the family and learned that Story was in the hospital. He felt he was destined to assist this family somehow.
When he posted the story on Facebook, others shared his empathy—and they rallied.
“They kept asking, ‘how can we help? How can we help,’” Dunahoe said. “So it was suggested to start a GoFundMe Page.”
He started a fundraising page to help Story—and it’s now up to nearly $14,000!
That money will go towards paying the family’s medical expenses and even getting Story an epileptic service dog.
For Dunahoe, it was all about doing the right thing and seizing the moment to change someone’s life.
“I think we all have an opportunity every day to be the answer to somebody’s prayer,” he told WFAA.
And this family knows their prayers were answered.
Though Dunahoe found the balloon, the family is convinced Skyler had something to do with it.
“I’d have to say it was definitely their dad looking over them,” Western said. ”There’s no doubt in my mind.”
“It’s like really awesome and feels good to know that he’s seeing us and knowing what we’re saying to him,” added Gypsy.