Renee Finney died from cancer on May 5, so when Mother’s Day came a few days later, the woman’s grieving children decided to pay tribute by writing heartfelt notes to their mom and sending them to the skies tied to balloons.
The kids said they weren’t sure about the gesture at first. Their mom’s illness had taken a toll on them, and she died without life insurance so they were struggling to pay for a funeral.
“At first I thought they were really dumb, like she’s not going to get them, she’s not going to read them,” Finney’s daughter Da-Vion told San Diego’s KGTV 10 News. But the three kids — Karries, 25, Da-Vion, 18, and David, 16 — wanted to put their emotions into words and send their mother one last message.
The letters tied to the balloons may not have reached their mother, but they did prompt a heartwarming response from the person who did find them.
The balloons flew 30 miles from where the children sent them into the sky, landing in Murrieta, California, in the yard of Yvette Melton. Curious, Yvette opened the letters and said she was heartbroken with what she read.
“It was so many things in those letters that inspired me to help,” Melton told People magazine. “With a child writing, ‘You are up in heaven but we are not able to bury you,’ it just touched me. I had to help — it’s something people should do.”
Yvette was determined to do whatever she could to help, so she scanned the newspaper and found Renee Finney’s obituary. She called her local news stations with pictures of the balloons, and called her boss at Color Spot Nurseries to see if they could help.
Within hours, employees at the nursery had pulled together $2,000 to help the Finney family pay for their mom’s funeral. Meanwhile, the family was holding fundraisers of their own on Mother’s Day and putting out donation boxes.
But even with all the money they raised, the family was still $10,000 short of burying their mother.
“We almost lost her body to the state today because there is a certain amount of time where they won’t hold the cemetery spot, and we’re rushing over there now to beg them to give us more time,” Karries said. “I feel numb, I am so devastated, I was so close to my mom.”
But Melton was not done helping the family she had never met. As she was organizing efforts at her office, the woman also put together an online fundraiser page called Letters to Heaven. Close to 500 people have donated, most offering $10 or $20 and many sharing messages about their own mother who died young.
By Sunday the fundraising effort had sailed past the $10,000 goal, raising a total of $21,000 and growing. The Finney family is planning a funeral service for their mother on Friday.