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How complete strangers helped this single dad decode a final message from his dead wife.

After his wife died during childbirth, Jared discovered comfort in the unfinished things she left behind.

How complete strangers helped this single dad decode a final message from his dead wife.

June 16, 2016, was meant to be the best day of Jared and Sharry Buhanan-Decker's lives. It turned out to be the worst.

On that morning a few months ago, the Utah couple of 12 years drove to the hospital. They were full of anticipation for the arrival of their firstborn child.

It had taken almost three years and an expensive IVF process for them to conceive, and Sharry had excitedly blogged about their plans for parenthood during her pregnancy.


All photos via Jared Buhanan-Decker, used with permission.

As the couple was cuddling and dozing on a hospital bed, waiting for the delivery to begin, things turned horribly wrong.

"I woke up to hear one of the monitors beeping. Doctors and surgeons came out from all over and wheeled Sharry into surgery," Jared said. "I was terrified for the baby, but I didn’t ever consider Sharry’s life was at stake."

Shortly after, doctors gave Jared news he could never have prepared for: Their baby had been delivered by emergency C-section, but Sharry was in cardiac arrest.

30-year-old Sharry had experienced a rare allergic reaction to the baby’s amniotic fluid entering her bloodstream, which caused her vital organs to shut down.

"My whole world came crashing down," Jared said.

In the dark weeks that followed Sharry’s death, Jared was forced to come to terms with his future as a single father and the loss of his best friend.

Sleepless nights weeping at Sharry’s gravestone, reading her journals, and listening to old voicemails became survival mechanisms.

“I wanted to feel her in any way,” he said.

In his search for comfort, Jared came across several audio files on Sharry’s laptop, but without buying expensive software, he had no way of opening them.

He took his dilemma to Reddit and requested help to convert the files, and the response was overwhelming.

"I was hoping for just one or two responses and received dozens. The kindness and compassion of strangers has been amazing," he said.

Reddit users came to the rescue, quickly returning several mp3 files to Jared, each revealing original songs Sharry had composed and recorded herself.

In one of her songs, Sharry sings, "Baby, don’t you worry about me," urging her listener to wipe away their tears and "softly close the door."

"That is a message for me right now in my life," Jared said. "I could never have anticipated the meaning her songs would have."

Since receiving the mp3 files, Jared has kept them on his phone so he can listen to them with baby JJ whenever grief strikes.

"I still have a lot of tough nights, and JJ as a new baby has struggles to stay asleep, so I use those songs to comfort both of us," he said.

"Science tells us babies respond to their mother’s voice because for nine months that’s the main voice they hear, and Sharry was always talking to him and singing to JJ."

But Sharry’s music wasn’t all she left behind. As Jared continued to comb through her computer files and journals, he also found something else left unfinished: a bucket list.

Between items like dancing naked in the rain, traveling to India, and overcoming anxiety, Sharry’s list is full of bold dreams to help other people.

Jared said her bucket list is now a roadmap for him and JJ, compelling them to fulfill Sharry’s dreams and to honor her memory as the years go by.

"It is good for me, to push me outside my comfort zone because she was always the one to do that, and in a way she still will be," he said.

The first goal Jared hopes to fulfill is the creation of a treasure hunt scholarship fund for disadvantaged children.

"It’d be so easy, when tragedy happens, to withdraw and become cynical … but I cannot do that," he said.

"I need to lead my life as a legacy to Sharry. I need to cherish experiences, relationships, and life. I need to be a force for good and light in the world just like she always was and is."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."