Second-hand book shops are a trove of forgotten treasure. It's not unusual to find letters, bank notes or shopping lists hidden between the pages of an old book. But when a second-hand bookshop owner in Durham found a mother's dying letter to her daughter, he knew it was so special that he had to hunt down the rightful recipient.
The note was given to Bethany Gash, now 21, by her mother Lisa Gash before she passed away from cystic fibrosis at age 36. It's thought the letter was lost during a house move when Ms Gash was around six, after the note was hidden in a book for safe keeping.
But now, 15 years on, she has been reunited with it thanks to Bondgate Books owner, Gordon Draper. He discovered the letter and a photograph of the mother and daughter in an envelope, hidden between a pile of newly-arrived books at his shop in Bishop Auckland.
Bethany's father Keith read her the note as a child, which reads: “If your dad is reading this to you it is because I have died and gone to heaven to live with the angels.”
Her mother then explained to her that she had a “poorly chest” and that an operation to fix it had not worked.
“I will always be in the sky making sure you are alright and watching over you so when you see a bright star, like in the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, that’s me ... I hope you don’t forget me because I’ll always be your mam,” she added.
The heartwarming letter also reminds Bethany to take care of her pet rabbit.
Draper, who owns Bondgate Books, told The Guardian he "just had to do something" when he discovered the note, so he put an appeal in the Northern Echo newspaper to find Bethany.
“She is really made up that she has got the letter back. She thought she would never see it again. She had given up looking for it,” he said.
Bethany has been overwhelmed by Draper's actions. “I can look back at it at any time I want and the words in it are so close to us,” she said. “This is the last piece of my mum that I have.”
Ms Gash now lives in Ferryhill, County Durham. She added that she plans to show the letter to her son, 18-month-old Oliver, when he's old enough to understand.