A simple set of balloons floating into the sky has now afforded three grieving children the opportunity to throw their mom a proper funeral.
“All this just seems so unreal,” Karries Finney, of Moreno Valley, Calif., told ABC News of the whirlwind she’s been through this month.
When Finney’s mother, Renee, who was only 42-years-old, abruptly died from cancer right before Mother’s Day, she and her younger brother and sister were suddenly left trying to raise funds they just didn’t have, at least $10,000, for her burial.
The three children — ages 16, 18 and 25 — spent Mother’s Day holding bake sales and car washes, doing everything within their power to give their mom the send-off they knew she deserved. But despite successfully earning a whopping $2,000 that day, they still needed $8,000 more.
Overwhelmed and a bit defeated, the kids retreated back home to find one of Renee’s oldest and dearest friends, Lena Stargell, standing in the living room with a bundle of inflated balloons.
“She said, ‘You guys are going to write letters for your mom,’” Finney recalled of Stargell’s touching idea. “She even had her kids do it, too. My mom was like their aunt. It took us all day to put our thoughts together.”
Each of the children wrote notes from their hearts, pouring their personal thoughts for their beloved mom onto paper. They then turned to the skies, fastening the notes to the helium balloons and released them, hoping they’d reach her in heaven.
Finney was admittedly skeptical of the balloon idea, but was willing to give it a shot to have one last conversation with her mom. And now she couldn’t be happier that she did.
“I knew my mom probably wasn’t going to read them or reach her in heaven, but honestly, now I know my mom was in heaven blowing those balloons right back down and put them on that porch,” she explained of what miraculously happened next.
On Monday morning, the day after Mother’s Day, Yvette Melton, a complete stranger 35 miles away in Murrieta, Calif., walked out her front door on her way to work and literally stumbled onto a clump of balloons on her lawn.
“I went to leave about 8:30 in the morning or so, and they were just right off the grass in my bushes right by the door,” Melton, 55, recalled. “And where I live, I thought it was just trash because we have so much wind, until I picked them up and saw the notes attached.”
She was apprehensive at first to read the notes for fear of being intrusive, but once she realized one of them was in children’s handwriting, she eventually gave in.
Once she realized exactly what she was reading, Melton was in blown away at the kids’ sweet gestures and decided to jump in.
“I came into work with them and I said ‘I have to find this family,’ and my boss jumped on board,” said Melton. “These letters had nothing to do with them asking for help, it was just three kids’ thoughts to their mother. They had no intention of anyone finding it and they weren’t asking for anything.”
Humbled and thrilled at the opportunity to surprise the family, Melton began Googling the names signed on the letters and eventually came across Renee Finney’s obituary. She contacted the funeral home who then contacted Finney, who was speechless to learn yet another “angel,” as she now refers to Melton, had found the balloons and wanted to help make the funeral possible.
“That afternoon the mortuary called us and we were like, ‘What? What’s going on?,’” said Finney, dumbfounded at the stranger’s generosity.
By that point, Melton, her boss and fellow coworkers had already collected $2,000 to give the family, and were still actively working to get more. Melton even set up a gofundme page, which she says reached an additional $10,000 within a mere nine hours.
“I just started crying,” said Finney. “When I found out, we were actually out doing bake sales and trying to raise more money. We were so overwhelmed with everything we had to do, and we just prayed. We just told ourselves, ‘We are prosperous and we will survive.’”
But then, she added, “We get a phone call that someone had found the balloons, and I didn’t know what to say. I was just at a loss for words and just was praising God.”
Finney and Melton have now touched base and are planning to meet for the first time at Renee’s funeral on May 23.
“I told her, ‘I want you to be at the funeral. I want you to see what you made possible. I want you to be a friend of mine forever,’” Finney said. “She could have just gone to the mortuary and put down $20 and called it a day.
“I love her, I love her, I love her,” she repeated. “I can’t even express the gratitude. It’s amazing. I don’t even know what to say. When I try to tell Yvette how I feel, nothing is enough. I can’t say enough. I can’t thank her enough. There are no words to express the feeling that this is giving us. It’s unreal.”
Melton says she’s honored to attend the funeral and is very much looking forward to meeting the family.
“This has been such a whirlwind,” she said. “But it all happened for a reason.”
Finney couldn’t agree more.
“I cannot wait to meet her and just look at her face and tell her she’s my angel,” the gracious daughter explained. “I now have two angels. My mother, and Mrs. Yvette.”