This woman was devastated over losing her father—but her spirit is lifted by an unexpected surprise from a police officer

November 14, 2017 6:32 am Last Updated: November 14, 2017 6:55 am

When Gina Headen, from Belleville, Illinois, realized she was being pulled over by the police in November 2015, it felt like the latest bit of bad luck in an especially dark chapter in her life.

Headen’s father, Charles Penny, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s. The disease progressed for years, until things got even worse: he developed kidney cancer.

“He wasn’t even aware of the fact that he had cancer,” Headen told Today. “That’s how bad it was.”

Headen had always been close with her father, and when things got bad, she moved him into her home to take care of him. But on November 11, Penny’s long battle was finally over. He died at the age of 75.

Headen was devastated at losing her beloved parent.

(Facebook/Gina Penny-Headen)

The pain stayed with her for weeks—and she was still hurting on December 3, when she saw the flashing lights of a police car behind her.

She pulled over. An officer from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department stepped out of his car, and informed Headen that she was driving ten miles over the speed limit. He took her license and registration, and Headen waited, certain the officer would return with a ticket.

Still grieving, all Headen could think about was how her father would disprove of the situation. “He never sped and would think it was pretty stupid of me to be spending money on a ticket,” she recalled. 

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

However, she found the officer was surprisingly forgiving—thanks to a strange coincidence.

“It’s your lucky day, we were born on the same day and year,” she recalled the officer saying as he returned her paperwork. “Slow down and have a good day.”

Headen was relieved—this was just the sort of lucky break she needed. However, her sorrows suddenly came back to her.

“He walked away and I broke down and started crying,” Headen recalled.

She thought the officer had returned to his vehicle—but he was still there, and became concerned when he saw Headen’s tears. The officer asked her if she was okay, and she explained her situation—and the officer helped calm her down.

“He told me to take a deep breath and we spoke about my dad for a few minutes,” Headen told Today. “He said that my dad must’ve been a wonderful man and then I told him how much I miss him.”

It was comforting, and Headen thanked the officer and continued on. She thought that was the last she would see of him.

But then a few days later, she got something in the mail.

(Facebook/Gina Penny-Headen)

Headen opened the letter—and was stunned to see that it was a sympathy card.

(Facebook/Gina Penny-Headen)

It was from the police officer who pulled her over!

(Facebook/Gina Penny-Headen)

Dept. Dan Hill decided to do something extra to comfort the grieving woman.

“My condolence on the loss of your father,” he wrote in the card. “I’m sure he was a great man who loved his family. I pray that your tears of sadness becomes tears of joy in remembering his legacy.”

Headen was stunned, but incredibly moved by the gesture.

“I was shocked that he was thinking about me a whole week later,” Headen told Today. “He must be an angel.”

(KMOV/Screenshot)

Headen posted her story on Facebook, where it’s been shared nearly 30,000 times.

When Hill was asked about his act of kindness, he responded that it was all part of his job—and that officers do acts of kindness all the time.

“We are not here just to send people to jail, or to write people tickets,” he told KMOV. “We help when we can.”

Later, Headen got to thank the officer in person when the two were reunited.

It was a few weeks later, around Christmastime. Headen reached out to Hill’s family, wanting to thank him. She found out that Hill had been going through rough personal troubles of his own—he had just lost his grandfather.

So, wanting to return his kindness and in the spirit of the holiday season, Headen got him a gift: a Christmas ornament to remember his grandfather.

(KMOV/Screenshot)

A new, unexpected friendship formed, all thanks to a random act of kindness. Share this story with your friends and family; it’s a wonderful reminder of how little thoughts can mean so much to others, especially as you never know what they might be going through.

“I’m so blessed he was the one who pulled me over that day,” Headen said.