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More than a quarter of a century ago, Cheryl Seacrist’s mother gave her a gift. It was a long-ago letter to Cheryl from her father. He had been stationed in the Pacific in World War II when he wrote it. A letter from far away on the occasion of his daughter’s first Christmas.
Of course Cheryl was only nine months old at the time and couldn’t possibly have read it. She always suspected her dad wrote the letter so she would have something of him that was all her own when she grew up -- in case he didn’t make it home from the war.
He did make it home. But then, at the age of 48, he died too young.
Years later, her mother found the letter, which had been stored away, when she was dividing up family mementos to give to Cheryl and her brother. Cheryl had never seen it before. She and her father had been very close, and the idea that he had written this letter specifically to her made it all the more special.
She cherished it -- framed it and hung it up on a wall in her house. But she didn’t notice that as each year passed the words had gradually grown fainter and fainter. The sunlight was taking them away. And then one day -- they were gone.
And she couldn’t remember what the letter said. She couldn’t pass it on to her own children as a family keepsake. Cheryl needed to get the words back.
And then one day, She read a story about a professor who might be able to bring documents back to a readable form. She reached out. The professor tried, and it worked.
And now Cheryl’s whole family can cherish the long-ago words from a soldier to his little girl on the occasion of her first Christmas.
If you have a mysterious letter or document in your family made unreadable by time and the elements, like Cheryl did, we may be able to help. Send a picture of it in a private message to @datelinenbc on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.