You may have received a text message from an unknown sender; it’s possible that you even replied to that message. When teenager Leena Ali chose to respond to a text sent to the wrong number, however, it set in motion a chain of events with a truly heartwarming ending.
On September 17, 2018, Brock University student Ali saw that she had a new text. Upon reading the message, though, it likely became clear that the sender had got the wrong number. For starters, they had asked the question, “Hey… is this Quentin?”
But while Ali clearly wasn’t Quentin, she nevertheless decided to play along and see where the exchange took her. “Yea, who’s this?” she replied. To begin with, the teenager assumed that the message had been sent by a friend who, according to Ali, didn’t choose to save any numbers to her phone.
Ali’s buddy wasn’t at the other end, though. The text message had actually come from 43-year-old aesthetician Dawn Burke, who had never met the young woman before. And when a further message came in from Burke, it was plain that the reason for her getting in touch with Quentin wasn’t something that should be joked about.
Still believing that she was texting her nephew, Burke forwarded on details of a memorial service for fellow family member Debbie Celar. She wrote, “Just to let you all know Aunt Debbie’s celebration of life will be [on] Friday between 1 and 4 at Falls View Hose Brigade on Dunn Street.”
Then, in response, Ali immediately came clean and let Burke know that she was texting the wrong number. Even so, the student replied that she wanted to attend the service – if the woman who called herself “Auntie Dawn” would be fine with her being there, that is.
Happily, Burke agreed that Ali could indeed come to the event. In fact, the unlikely invite may even have been appreciated by Celar herself. Of the situation, Burke told BuzzFeed in October 2018, “My Aunt Deb would have done the same thing. She had a way to find the good in things and enjoy a good joke.”
After that, Ali confirmed that she would be making it to the commemoration of Celar’s life; she would also be taking a fruit bowl for everyone to enjoy. Ali, who is of Sudanese heritage, would explain that choice to the Toronto Star in September 2018, saying, “Culturally, that’s what we do. If someone invites you somewhere or brings you somewhere, you should bring something.”
But, naturally, Ali wouldn’t be the only one invited to the memorial service. Celar had been the head of a substantial clan, leaving behind 50 close relatives; she was also a grandmother of 13. In fact, a huge number of people would ultimately be at the event: 400 in all.
And on the day of the celebration of Celar’s life, Ali left class, after which she and her friend Yasmin made the 30-minute trip to Niagara Falls. With the fruit bowl in tow, the pair pulled up at the event – but the reception to Ali’s arrival was muted, to say the least.
No-one knew who Ali was or why she was there. Even Burke was confused at first as to why the young woman had seemingly turned up out of the blue. Then she spotted the fruit bowl in Ali’s hands – and everything started to make sense.
Suddenly, Burke became very excited to see that the teenager had delivered on her promise, with the pair going on to take a picture together. Ali herself, meanwhile, spent the occasion hearing more about Celar and getting to know her family.
Then, after attending the event, Ali tweeted about her story, showing off her selfie with Burke and screenshots of the text messages exchanged between them. The snaps received quite a bit of attention, too; Ali’s post has since been liked more than 5,700 times and shared by over 1,300.
And Burke turned out to be one of the many people to reply to the tweet. In response to Ali, she wrote, “My family hasn’t stopped talking about that all weekend long… they are telling everyone about this story! You are a truly amazing woman. You have brightened our weekend, that’s for sure. Thank you!”
Another woman who introduced herself on Twitter as “one of [Celar’s] many nieces” added to Ali, “I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself at the celebration, but I just wanted to thank you. My aunt was the greatest person I knew. She was always the life of the party – hence why she wanted a celebration rather than a funeral.”
But one question remained after Ali’s story had come to light: did anyone ever manage to contact Quentin? Fortunately for anybody pondering that conundrum, Ali revealed all on Twitter. Quentin had made it to Celar’s memorial, apparently, although Ali never got to speak to him – she had had to return to college before the pair met.
Meanwhile, when asked by BuzzFeed how her loved ones have reacted to the story, Ali said, “I let my close friends know that I was going to a random lady’s event. But since they already know my personality and how outgoing I am, they weren’t really shocked that I actually went.”
As for Ali’s tweet being read around the world? Well, the student herself hadn’t ever anticipated it being so popular. “I didn’t think it was gonna get this much attention at all because this was just one of the many random situations I get myself into in my day-to-day life,” she added to BuzzFeed.
Burke appeared to be equally surprised about how far and wide the tweet had spread. She told the website, “It is hard to wrap my head around this. Clearly this story is bigger than myself and Leena. In the current world we live in, it was nice to be part of something that was built out of an innocent mistake.”
In the end, though, while Burke’s family may have lost one beloved member, the aesthetician’s simple mix-up brought them a new potential friend. And Ali’s story is a heartwarming testament to taking chances – ones that, as it happens, may just make life that little bit happier for someone else.