A Father Sends Birthday Gifts from the Grave

Knowing he was dying, a Tennessee dad arranged special gifts for his teenage daughter

I have written many times about the importance of making memories with our loved ones before we die. Leaving the people who love us and will miss us with something wonderful to hold on to is an act of generosity and gratitude that lives on long after we are gone.

Bailey Sellers and her dad next to a photo of his final birthday gift card


Then, today I read a story about a father in Tennessee who took this act of kindness one step further. Knowing he was dying of pancreatic cancer, Mike Sellers arranged for a florist to deliver flowers and a card to his daughter on her 17th birthday, which came one month after he died in 2013. The gifts arrived on Bailey Sellers’ birthday every year for the next four years. The last, accompanied by a handwritten message telling her that she would not hear from her dad “until we meet again,” arrived shortly before Thanksgiving this year, on the day she turned 21.

In his final letter, Mike assured his daughter that he was “in a better place.” This was especially important to Bailey since she had been her father’s caretaker in the months before he died. Because her mother had to work to support the family, she dropped out of high school and opted for home schooling for the remainder of her senior year. “I spent every waking second with him,”  she said in an interview with CNN affiliate WATE.

A Tweet Goes Viral

Bailey Sellers was so overwhelmed by her father’s final message that she took to Twitter to tell the world about his gift. She tweeted an image of the card and flowers, along with an old photo of her and her dad when she was a young girl. She signed it “Miss you so much, daddy” and added a tiny purple heart.

The tweet went viral, and Bailey had soon received thousands of messages from others who had also lost a parent, sharing how the loss affected them and how they had grieved.

Bailey's flowers, her final birthday gift from dad

Bailey’s flowers, a final gift from her dad
Credit: twitter.com

Sellers is very able to relate to their pain, she says. She, too, became depressed after the death of her father, which hit her “very, very hard.” But now she wants to take that experience and use it to help others. So she’s studying psychology at East Tennessee State University with the goal of earning a graduate degree. She hopes one day to be able to work with young people like herself to help them navigate the difficult process of mourning the death of someone they love.

Bailey is proud of her accomplishments, and she’s also proud of her father. Speaking to WATE, she said, “He would be so proud that he did this. He made people happy. He made people realize that they shouldn’t … take the people they care about for granted.”

And how very true that is! Especially at this time of year, Bailey’s words should serve as an important reminder to us all that tomorrow is never a certainty. So the time to express your love to the important people in your life is now.

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