Like so many girls, Marquette McKnight's dad was her first Valentine. "He was never embarrassed about saying I love you, telling us he loved us. He wrote us continual notes. He said I loved you. He told all his friends how much he loved his daughters and his wife."
Bill McRae was the father of five daughters raised in Columbus. Every Valentine's day he gave his wife and each girl a box of Whitman's sampler chocolates. This tradition started when the girls were in their teens and continues through college, jobs, and marriages.
In 2007, Marquette's father battled cancer and lost.
"That first Valentine's day comes around and we are thinking it is kind of bittersweet because we aren't going to be getting our Valentine's Day boxes."
But, February 14, 2008, as always a Whitman's sampler box arrived at her work. With a note that said "love, dad." Marquette called it a Valentine from beyond. Each daughter, and their mom, received a box of chocolates in the mail. "We were all sort of tentatively calling each other on the phone because we didn't want to be the one to say, I got this box of candy from dad."
"Knowing that he was terminal and that we loved the tradition, we think he arranged it for somebody to do it. I don't know if it is going to be forever or not. It is a sweet story of beyond death."
The return address was always their dad's old home, leaving them clueless as to who is sending the special treat.
"For a while we sort of suspected one another. But then said, that he wouldn't have asked one of us to carry it on for the other sisters."
When their mother died, they were even more clueless about who was sending their Valentine's Day chocolates.
"We all sort of agreed it was a cousin, my father's only nephew. Or, a very good friend of his in Savannah. We thought he would have trusted those two." Neither of those have admitted to sending the gifts.
This Valentine's Day, right on time, the Whitman's arrive. Marquette says its still the best Valentine's Day surprise, ever. "Its about a dad's love. There would have never been any doubt that he loved me for the rest of my life. But, I think it is just that sort of reminder of everyday telling somebody that you love them and demonstrating that love."
Marquette says she has always known her dad loved her. This year, with the box of chocolates, she learned something new. "I am not questioning it anymore. I am not interested and I almost don't want to find out who it is. I want it to be a surprise for me every year, I hope."
Our hope at WXTX and Marquette's hope is that every person watching be so fortunate to be loved after death and beyond.