LITTLETON, Colo. (ABC) – They say the best gifts come in small packages, but when that package is delivered in the mail almost eight years after it was written — and two years after the person sending it has passed away — it becomes incredibly special.
Little Rowan Torrez was only 7 years old when his dad, Joseph Torrez, died from an incurable neurological disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
“It’s a horrible, horrible thing and they can’t do anything to stop it or slow it down,” Rowan’s mom, Julie Van Stone, told ABC News of her husband’s untimely death. “The protein unfolds in your brain. Your brain breaks down and looks like a sponge.”
Fortunately, Rowan now has a much sweeter final memory to reflect on his dad with. On March 7, just days before the second anniversary of his death on March 13, 2013, Rowan got a postcard in the mail that his father had written him on June 10, 2007.
“Hello from Pennsylvania,” the loving, handwritten note began. “I love you and I miss you so much. See you soon. Love, Daddy.”
“It was extraordinary enough that it arrived, and then the timing of when it came — it’s just crazy,” said Van Stone, 39.
Friday is exactly two years since Rowan lost his daddy.
“He’s just kind of quietly pleased,” she described of her son’s reaction when he received the special delivery. “It’s as if a wrong has been set right.”
“We’ve been talking a lot about keepsakes and keeping things that are important,” she added. “That was a new word for him: keepsake. He keeps his dad’s Navy hat in a hutch above his desk and now he put the postcard inside the hat.”
Rowan, now 9, remembers visiting his dad in exotic locations while he was stationed in the Navy. Torrez loved his son so much, that he made the difficult decision to leave his family in Littleton, Colorado, to join the Navy while working on earning two masters degrees from MIT — all in order to provide more for his family.
“He would see him as much as he could,” Van Stone explained of their father-son relationship. “Rowan was always going somewhere fun to see him. We went to New Zealand, Australia,Hawaii and California to visit him. He really was a ‘Disneyland dad’ because that’s what they did together when he was stationed in San Diego.”
To Rowan, she added, “His dad was all good times, and that’s a really good thing for him to have now.”
This postcard is just a continuation of those good times.
Right after Torrez graduated from MIT, as he was driving from Boston back to his family in Colorado, he apparently stopped to send Rowan postcards from each state he stopped in along the way.
Van Stone recalls her husband asking, “Did you get my postcards?,” to which she replied, “We got three or four.” She vaguely remembers him mentioning that he had sent more along the way, but the family just assumed they had gotten lost in the mail.
Now, nearly eight years later, they know.
Torrez’s last words he ever spoke to Van Stone still resonate with her to this day, now more clearly than ever.
“He just kept saying, ‘Everything’s a circle. We’re a family. We’re going to be together again,’” she recalls. “He kept repeating it. ‘Everything’s a circle. All that matters is the love.’”
She and Rowan can rest assured he was right.
“He found a way to be in touch,” she said. “At some point coincidence becomes meaningful, and I think we’re there.”