For several years, teenager Ashlynn Marracino released a helium balloon up in the air, with a message written on it for her late father on his birthday. She hoped somehow the message would reach him.
In 2015 she asked him for a sign, something to know that he was still there. And while people might say what she received may not have been sent from her father, the 16-year-old knows it was from him.
Ashlynn’s father had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2009, and his death hit her hard. Ashlynn’s mother, Robin Godfrey, also lost her father when she was young, so she knew what it was like for her daughter.
“It was very private and personal,” Godfrey told TODAY Parents about the 16-year-old’s “letter to heaven.”
“I can write out stuff that I want to tell him,” Ashlynn said. “It makes me feel like he would receive it—seeing it go up into the sky and disappear … It feels like a weight has been lifted off your chest.”
Every year on his birthday Ashlynn sent a balloon to heaven for her father.
In her message on the balloon, Ashlynn told her father about how she was doing in school and sports, how much she missed him, and how she was sorry that she had missed his last phone call to her.
According to CBS Evening News, Ashlynn’s father, Scott, spent some time in jail and would write his daughter often, although she never responded. Even when he was out, she didn’t answer his calls, and it’s something she regrets.
“I didn’t answer the phone, and what if he wanted to say “I love you”? I would have liked to say that, but I didn’t get to,” she said through tears to CBS Evening News.
Ashlynn hoped to get some kind of response from her father, but knew it wasn’t realistic.
A few days after she sent her emotional letter to her father she got the response she was looking for.
Some 450 miles away from her home in Whittier, California, someone had come across what appeared to be garbage in the parking lot of a restaurant in Auburn, California.
The discarded balloon was found 450 miles away from Ashlynn’s home.
“We started reading it, my coworker and I, realized what it was and we got kind of teary,” Lisa Swisley, the restaurant owner, told TODAY Parents. “It was very sad to us that she was missing her dad so much. I just thought I wanted to reach out to her.”
Swisley looked Ashlynn up on Facebook and contacted her, and the teen was stunned to hear the name of the woman’s restaurant—Local Heroes. She knew it was her sign.
Then Swisley shared the story with a local Facebook group. Members of the group offered to put together a care package for the 16-year-old to show that she is loved.
“It just gave me faith and hope again and reassurance,” Ashlynn said of the community’s willingness to send a care package to a stranger. “It’s pretty amazing.”
It looks like her father may have been reading those messages all along.