Many of us rely on coffee to get us through the day—but never quite like this.
Diana Register, from Meridian, Idaho, is a regular customer at her local Dutch Bros Coffee. But on one visit, the drive-thru coffee chain gave her more than her caffeine fix: it offered a sign of hope during a difficult time.
In January 2015, Diana got news that destroyed her: after being rushed to the emergency room, her husband, Chad, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“The world stopped. At least mine did,” she told Love What Matters. “We lost him that day. We lost the man who held our future, our stories, our jokes, and our memories.”
The diagnosis began a long 18-month battle with the disease. Diana was by her husband’s side as his caretaker, maintaining a brave face through it all.
But in private, Diana was struggling with grief—and didn’t want anyone to know.
She hid her emotions, going so far as to find places to be by herself and cry.
“The closet was a favorite,” she told Love What Matters. “The shower. But when I wasn’t home, it was parking lots that became an asphalt covered oasis.”
She wrote that parking lots were an ideal spot because, even if strangers spotted her crying in her car, they wouldn’t ask questions.
But that all changed one day, when she went to get a cup of coffee.
Diana was out by herself and decided she needed some coffee. She pulled into the Dutch Bros drive-thru, as she had done so many times before—but this time was different:
She started crying uncontrollably.
Someone had called her, and something they said apparently triggered her grief. Sobbing, Diana wanted to drive off to be on her own—but there was no escaping the line.
“There was no way out,” she wrote. “I was literally blocked in, so unless I wanted to back right up into the SUV behind me.”
“I was about to be seen for the mess I really was.”
Diana decided to pull up to the window and try to order, but she was unable to get a word out.
But remarkably, she recognized the woman serving her from previous visits—and the worker remembered Diana’s usual order.
“She just handed me my drink. A drink I didn’t order because I couldn’t even muster the words, but a drink she would know I wanted.”
With her iced coffee in hand, Diana pulled into a parking space to let her emotions out.
That’s when she noticed what was written on the cup:
The barista had written “We love you!” on the lid, and inserted a pink straw. It was an image that struck Diana.
“This girl barely knew me,” she told Love What Matters. “I don’t even think at the time she knew my story. All she knew was that at that moment, I was hurting. She couldn’t fix it. We couldn’t talk about it. She couldn’t hug me. So she used the only tool she had in that instance – a pen, and a pink straw.”
Diana said that the image of the pink straw, a symbol of the kindness of strangers she’s felt throughout her husband’s illness, is as indelible as the heartbreaking memories she’s faced.
“Because it became more than that,” she explained. “It wasn’t just a straw and a message. It was a powerful symbol of how the smallest act of kindness can impact somebody’s life.”
Diana still visits that same Dutch Bros. The worker who first gave her the pink straw has moved on to another job—but the legacy remains.
Every time Diana visits, she asks for a pink straw. Eventually, she explained the story of her husband’s cancer to the store’s manager, who relayed it to his employees.
They were so moved they agreed to help spread pancreatic cancer awareness in Chad’s memory.
For Diana, who is now working to start a “wish-granting” foundation for cancer patients called the #iam49 foundation, it was proof that it’s the little act of kindness can change someone’s life—and even spread to others.
“We often think we have to do something big to make a difference,” she wrote. “We think we have to spend a lot of money or do a grand act. We don’t. Sometimes, it starts from holding somebody’s hand, or being present in their grief, or offering a hug, or writing a note, or reaching out in some way. And sometimes, it starts with a pink straw.”
“Simple acts of kindness is all it takes. This small thing has literally changed my life, and I hope you remember that as you go on with yours.”