(KWQC/CNN) — A girl in Iowa has a special birthday ritual to remember her late father who died in a train accident in 2009.
This year, the family did something different, and got a special surprise.
Seven days after her first birthday, six-year-old Brynn Reed lost her dad in a train accident.
Brynn’s mom Jamie Diercks does her best to keep memories of Brynn’s dad Andrew alive for her young daughter.
So every year, for Brynn’s birthday, they set a balloon free, hoping that somewhere, someplace, Andrew is watching over them.
This year for her 7th birthday, they decided to put their address on Brynn’s balloon.
Then, two months later, a white envelope came in the mail. A family, 300 miles away in Logansport, Indiana, sent a letter — and the deflated balloon — back to Brynn, wishing her a happy birthday.
The balloon landed on the Indiana family’s front porch.
“It was our way of saying that it was a sign from Andrew,” Diercks said, “that it came back to us and that he is still watching over us all the time, like I always tell Brynn that he is.”
She said celebrating Brynn’s birthdays is bittersweet — she’s so happy for her daughter’s birthday, but sad that Brynn’s dad is no longer around, so she wants her anonymous pen pals to know they are grateful.
The handwritten letter means everything to their family.
“I’m thankful that I got the balloon back,” Brynn said.