She peered down at her phone to see dozens of notifications, she was puzzled when she saw outcry in reaction to what she had posted. She looked at the post again, she didn’t see any cause for alarm. What was the problem?
while wondering what the fuss was she got a direct message. Little did she know her life was about to change. The direct message simply said: “Turn on the news.”
Joyce Rhinehart always had her camera with her wherever she went. The 60-year-old woman started feeling the weight of the big Nikon as she got older. So she was delighted when her daughter bought her a nice camera phone for her birthday. The phone was brand new and state-of-the-art so the picture quality was amazing.
A lot of people take photographs as a hobby but Joyce’s habit that developed as she got older was anything but a hobby.
On a few occasions over the years, Joyce’s daughter brought up her unusual interest and it would always end in an argument.
Joyce wasn’t like any other photographer, she couldn’t care less about nice scenery, flora, or wildlife. Linda remembers always whining when she saw her mom pull out her Nikon in a public place. “At least you can be more discreet now,” She sighed.
Joyce’s habit had been usual for her family for years, they even made jokes about it. They had a lot of family photos littering the walls of their home – these photos just weren’t ones of Joyce’s family.
Linda didn’t mind, it was her mother’s life to live. She was more worried that a day would come where her mother would go too far with her habit. She didn’t know how right she was.
One day in June, Linda left her son with Joyce for an afternoon. Blake was 8-years-old and loved visiting his granny. They went together to a tennis lesson and afterward Joyce decided to spoil Blake at Rita’s Italian Ice.
Once they had finished up with their treats, they were walking out of the store when Joyce saw something that made her take out her cellphone. She couldn’t help herself. But soon she would wish she hadn’t taken out her phone.
Joyce walked up to a family of four sitting at a bench and enjoying a family treat together. She could only presume that it was a mother, a father, and two kids.
There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when it came to this family so Joyce snapped a photo without hesitation. “Something urged me,” she said after having seen the news.
Once Joyce had taken the picture of the family she gave the phone to one of the kids. “I took [the picture] and then handed my phone to the young daughter and told her to go ahead and text the picture to their cell phone,” she recalled.
Joyce assumed the family would appreciate her capturing that solemn moment between family members. Once she was done she walked back to her grandson and they left for her house, not knowing what that picture really represented.
Joyce decided to post the photo on Rita’s Italian Ice Facebook page and forgot about it. But it seems that what Joyce had just done would set events into motion that would not only affect her but everyone that was involved.
What she had captured on that day on her camera phone ran much deeper than just a family eating ice cream.
Joyce didn’t know much about Facebook so she didn’t understand why her phone was getting notifications that entire day. She then realized that people were responding to the photo of the family she had taken just days earlier.
A lot of the responses were broken heart emojis and angry faces. Subsequently, Joyce got a notification from a number she didn’t know. What did they want?
The only thing that the number had to say was: “turn on the news.” Joyce looked up at her television set and turned it over to the news. She didn’t know this would be lifechanging. The photo she had taken was plastered all over local news broadcasts. What was going on?
As she turned the volume up on her TV, what she heard made the hair on her neck stand up. At the same time, her phone buzzed and she received one more notification.
The message, as it turned out, was from the remaining members of the family from that fateful photo that Joyce had snapped. They had some terrible news that they wanted to share with the stranger who had felt compelled to take their picture that day.
When Joyce finally understood why her photo was on the news, a chill went down her spine.
Joyce shared her story on Facebook: ‘I have an incredible story to share,’ she wrote. ‘One that still sends chills through me and brought me to tears.’
‘I took this picture below and then handed my phone to the young daughter and told her to go ahead and text the picture to their cell phone. Left to take Blake home and explained to him how I have done this before when I see cute family moments of total strangers so they can have the memory… But, wait till you hear the rest of the story.’
‘Suddenly my text message alert goes off and it’s just a number (no name attached)…’ Joyce continued.
‘Dear madam,’ the message read. ‘You took our picture in front of Rita’s on June 8,’ the message began. And as Joyce read on, she began to get goosebumps. The fact that she had happened to be in the right place at the right time absolutely floored her. Then, the gravity of the situation hit her and tears began to run down her face.
‘My wife has passed away yesterday,’ the message continued, ‘…and this is the last picture we have together as a family. Please accept my deepest gratitude for your kindness, it means the world to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.’
Understandably, Joyce was shell shocked. But she was also touched that the family had reached out to her. Joyce’s heart broke as she texted back.
After a few messages back and forth, Joyce eventually discovered what had happened. She learned that, despite the mom in the photo’s appearance, she had been ill for about a year. The struggling mom had tried to be strong for her family on that day they had all gone out for ice cream together.
Nobody knew that that outing would be the family’s last. The memorial was briefly aired on the local news, and the family had decided to use Joyce’s photograph.
It’s often said that a picture can paint a thousand words. And, in circumstances like this one, they can also offer some comfort and remind us of happy memories.
Pictures can serve as everlasting reminders of loved ones, especially when they are in their final days. But, as surprising as Joyce’s story was, it wasn’t unique by any means…
In September 2015, a man named Alan Wright visited a castle in Kent, U.K., with his wife. While they were there, a man asked to take their photograph while they were strolling on the castle grounds.
Sadly, Alan’s wife passed away a few months later. After Alan realized that this was the last photo taken of his wife, he appealed to a magazine to assist him in tracking down the picture.
Another photograph involved a Canadian couple John and Jackie Knill. They were on a beach in Thailand when the tsunami struck in 2004. Unfortunately, they were among the estimated 280,000 who perished in the disaster.
However, when their camera washed up, the photographs it contained provided a lot of comfort to their surviving sons.
Patrick Knill, John and Jackie’s son, told the Seattle Times in 2005: “This is more than we could ever have asked for.”
He continued: “It’s like being there with our parents and seeing what they were seeing in those final moments. So many people still have no answers. It has taken so much stress off me and my brothers. It’s hard not knowing anything and now we know.”
‘Never underestimate a simple act of random kindness. I corresponded back with him a few more times and found out his wife had been ill for the past year,’ Joyce wrote. ‘My heart is heavy for this sweet family I don’t even know and the tremendous gift that was left to them cause I listened to my gut that day. I’m in awe!! This has the hand of God!’
Joyce was meant to take that photo that day. It was fate. Similarly, a woman named Amy thought that fate had led her to her fiance. Then, an old photo revealed who he really was…
Amy Giberson’s very first crush was a boy in her preschool class in St. Petersburg, Florida. As you’d expect from any kindergarten romance, their dates mainly involved sitting together during lunchtime, enjoying games of tag in the schoolyard and constructing castles out of building blocks.
Soon, 30 years had passed and they long since forgot about eachother but something would bring them back together again.
Their teacher reminisced on the toddlers’ adorable romance, “They had a blast with each other. It was a quiet, bashful romance. They liked each other from afar. It was a young love, like a sweet crush.”
Sadly though, this cute love affair was short-lived. Amy, then three, and her tiny man went their separate ways after graduating kindergarten. But would this be the end?
Several years later, Amy was off to university, leaving her long lost preschool crush behind her. She found new loves in adulthood, but they all proved to be tough experiences that left her heartbroken.
After being hurt time and time again, her friends stepped in. So no matter how hurt she was, her friends were always there to help her move on. And move on she did.
“People would tell me, ‘Don’t be so open, Amy. Don’t trust so easily,’” Amy said. “But if I stopped doing that, it wouldn’t be me. It’s just absolutely nuts that I [was] the tragically misguided girl who was always let down.”
But this unlucky streak wouldn’t last for long. When she hit 32 years old, everything changed.
At 32 years old, Amy was ready to settle down so she decided to move back to her own hometown of St. Petersburg. But without her dream man, she felt like she was only half of the equation. So she signed up to an online dating site.
Not soon after, her shiny profile caught the eye of another St. Petersburg local, Justin Pounders.
They were bound to hit it off. Much like Amy, Justin had also returned to his home town after a heartbreaking love story of his own.
Justin and his then fiancée, Adrianne Roberts, were about to move in together when tragedy struck. On her way home after having a few farewell drinks with her roommate, Roberts was attacked and brutally murdered.
It took Justin two years until he finally felt prepared to move on from his unfathomable loss. So there he was, back in St. Petersburg, looking for a real connection for the first time since the incident when he came across Amy’s intriguing profile.
He thought about what to say for a moment and then got in touch. It was a move that changed his life.
“I saw her photo and for whatever reason was instantly drawn to her,” Justin said. “She just had this great energy, you could tell. I can’t explain it, but I knew I had to get to know this girl.”
They chatted for a while online and felt an instant connection. It wasn’t long before they planned their first date.
Justin asked Amy out for dinner at a classy restaurant. They met, and Amy felt an instant attraction to him.
“When we met up and we hugged, it was like I had known him my whole life,” she said. They talked for a whole 4 hours straight. Time passed in the blink of an eye as she looked at him from across the table. But how did Justin feel?
“Not even halfway through dinner I found myself shivering because I was so excited,” Amy reminisced. “I remember telling myself, ‘I’m going to be having dinner with this man for the rest of my life.’”
Justin felt equally as hopeful after the success of the first date. He even told the waiter to write the date on their dessert. Their love began to blossom as they started meeting up nearly every day.
It was about two months into their relationship, when Justin made a very telling confession. “Justin casually mentioned he always liked my name because his first crush was a girl named Amy in preschool,” Amy said.
“I joked and said, ‘Well it wasn’t me, so I don’t want to hear about this Amy.’” But she wasn’t joking. In fact, she was a little jealous.
Amy had always been a confident and secure woman. She was independent, smart, loving and funny but when it came to men, she was also weary.
She had been hurt so many times before that she started to listen to the advice her friends had given her. To not trust men so easily. And now, she was putting that into practice.
She wasn’t feeling too secure in the genuine feelings Justin had for her since he told her about his fiance. She was heartbroken for him and her of course, but she was worried that perhaps she would never match up to the real love of his life who had tragically died.
Sometimes, she felt unsure as to whether he looked at her as second best. The thought hid in the back of her mind.
She did her best to talk herself out of her insecurities. After all, he was doing nothing wrong. She just wasn’t sure if she should get involved with a widow who was already deeply in love.
She was worried that he mightn’t be as emotionally available to her as she needed him to be. But then something happened that gave her all the reassurance she needed.
She started to pay closer attention to how Justin behaved around her after he told her about his fiance. She was looking for any behaviors in him that made her feel unwanted.
As the days passed, she was coming up empty, she really couldn’t fault him. He was attentive to her, affectionate and caring. But something did annoy her.
Randomly, he would talk about his first crush. The Amy he had met in kindergarten. He laughed as he reminisced on their sweet relationship.
When she asked if he knew where she was now, he looked sullen as he answered no. It was obvious to Amy that he was curious about her. Then something happened that changed everything.
After the third month of their relationship, Amy caught Justin touching a small scar on his forehead.
He told her it happened in preschool when he was horsing around on the monkey bars, he fell and cut his head. That was the moment that they discovered they had much more in common than they first realized.
While they knew that they had both grown up close by, they figured that they had never known each other as they didn’t know any of the same people.
But as it turned out, 30 years ago Justin went to the exact same preschool as Amy did. They tried to work out if they would have been there at the same time. They were.
This revelation led Amy to ask her mom to find the old photos from her preschool days. When she brought out the old group picture of the kindergarten class, Amy and Justin’s connected past became crystal clear.
Astonishingly, Amy and Justin were there 30 years ago. And not only in the same photo but sitting side by side!
“We asked our parents to dig up any preschool photos they had,” Amy said. “Justin’s mom found a photo of the two of us together and I just started crying, I was ecstatic. I was the Amy he had liked all those years ago! It was definitely meant to be.”
All her doubts of what he felt for her vanished. She was finally at peace, but was he?
A year had passed since they had met – for the second time! And now, Justin had a surprise up his sleeve. After making a special appearance on The View, while the couple were retelling their amazing story, Justin sprung into action.
Unexpectedly, the cameras were rolling at the preschool where they first met. There, a group of little students were holding up a sign that read, “Amy, will you marry me?”.
A year after the big engagement surprise, Amy and Justin became husband and wife. They married at the Mahaffey Theater in their beloved hometown, St. Petersburg.
It was a love that defied time and all other outside forces of life. It took them 30 years to unknowingly reunite. It was like the universe was guiding them to meet again.
Friends and family were gobsmacked at their incredible love story. And after word got out, so was anyone who heard it. But it wasn’t always an easy ride.
Justin and Amy knew they wanted to start a family immediately. That’s when they encountered their first heartbreak and challenge as a couple. It was a challenge that completely blindsided them.
“We had three early miscarriages,” Amy said. “I would test positive and then lose it.” It was a really hard time for them. But soon, their fate would change.
When their son Conrad was born, Amy remembers how they both “cried and held him close.” Now, she looks back at everything that had happened and thinks of the impossible chances that led them back together.
“The stars really had to align for everything to happen,” Amy said. “Everything that transpired in our lives, us coming back together and making this beautiful little person, it’s all very surreal”.
“For Conrad Pounders to exist, it’s been a long journey, but it does feel like everything has come full circle.” A truth stranger than fiction!