From high atop his tractor he spotted a partially deflated white balloon tangled in some bushes in the distance.
Beddingfield said he’s found weather balloons in his fields before, but something was different about this one. As he got closer, he noticed a small, white ribbon tied to the base of the balloon.
“On the end of the ribbon was an envelope and a letter,” he said. “So I untied the ribbon and took the letter off of it and saw that it was addressed to ‘Taigen.’ No address or anything.”
When Beddingfield opened the envelope, he found a folded piece of loose leaf notebook paper with faint pencil markings from a girl named “Anna,” who was addressing her deceased friend, Taigen.
“I love you beyond measure and I will never forget you,” the letter said. “You are always in my heart ... I just still can’t believe that you are gone.”
Beddingfield didn’t know it at the time, but the letter had traveled almost 300 miles before settling on his quiet farm.
“After I read the letter, I was so touched that I said, ‘We’ve got to get this letter to the little girl’s parents,’” he said. “We had very little to go on, but I was just impressed that a young girl had the idea of writing a letter and sending it to her best friend in Heaven by tying it to a balloon and sending it up.”
Beddingfield took the letter to his law office on 13th Street and asked his legal assistant, Carol Eldridge, who he called the “Sherlock Holmes” of the office, if she could find out who Taigen was so that he could return the letter to her family.
“I gave her the information that morning,” he said. “When she came in later in the afternoon, Carol had just about the whole story.”
By using nothing more than a first name and context clues, Eldridge found the obituary of Taigen Brooke Black, 13 of Arab, Ala., in The Arab Tribune. Arab, a town of more than 8,000 people, is south of Huntsville, Ala.
Eldridge said Taigen passed away following a car accident on Oct. 20, just one week after her birthday.
Using the obituary, Eldridge was able to track down the funeral home that conducted Taigen’s services and get her grandparents’ home address.
The grandparents, who were in the car during the accident, survived with injuries that weren’t life threatening, Eldridge said. Taigen’s grandmother is still hospitalized. The couple had been raising their granddaughter, Eldridge said.
“While she’s recovering, I think that this will brighten her day to read something like this,” she said.
Beddingfield said he was particularly touched by the fact that Taigen was so well thought of by her friends and classmates. According to her obituary, Taigen was a member of the Arab Junior High School Beta Club, math team, girl’s basketball team, band and scholar’s bowl.
“The whole team will never forget you,” the letter continued. “We practice for you. Play for you. Win for you. And when the 7th grade girls win county champs they better put your name on the banner or I’m gonna be mad.”
Beddingfield said he hasn’t attempted to reach Taigen’s grandparents by phone, and that he and Eldridge have not tried to locate Anna, the girl who wrote the note.
The letter was to be mailed Wednesday afternoon, he said.