Brenda Smith Cheek is spending her first Valentine's Day alone in years and was considering buying herself some flowers to mark the day. But dozens of strangers stepped in to made sure that wasn't necessary.
MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Brenda Smith Cheek was dreading Valentine’s Day because, for the first time in years, she’d be spending it without her sweetheart, David Cheek, who was killed in a car crash just over two months ago.
She knew her husband would have given her a single flower and a handwritten note Wednesday, then they would have gone fishing like they did every Valentine’s Day.
Instead, Brenda started her day by visiting the place where David died, then made her way to Waffle House to start her usual shift. It was her 36th anniversary with the restaurant chain.
The reception she received when she arrived was sweet, she said. Her coworkers and her daughters had decorated the dining room for her anniversary.
But it was just the beginning.
As she started her 6 a.m. shift, she noticed people dropping by to give her flowers and gifts. Many of them said, “To Brenda from your sweetheart.”
“I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It was amazing,” Brenda said.
What Brenda didn’t know is that a complete stranger she had met the day before at Waffle House had been been so moved by her situation that he took to social media to encourage friends and strangers alike to shower Brenda with flowers.
The stranger’s name: David.
David Oliver Willis, a local musician and worship leader for The Cross church in Eustis, posted a Facebook message that read:
“Hey Guys! There is a very special lady that works at Waffle House (Mount Dora location) and has worked for the company for 36 years tomorrow (Valentine’s Day). She lost her sweetheart 68 days ago in a fatal accident and mentioned that she might buy herself some flowers “from him” after work. If you will make time, it’d be awesome to buy her a single flower, pick her a flower or a bouquet and drop it off on Valentine’s day with a note (that reads) To Brenda From Your Sweetheart.
That’s just what people did, too.
“It seemed like she was feeling a little hurt and on Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on that pain, I wanted her to focus on love, even if it was from strangers showing up to express it to her,” Willis explained Wednesday. “I thought it would be cool to get a few people to bring her flowers, and it just started to go crazy.
“It’s powerful to reach out to someone you don’t know in a small way because it makes a big impact.”
By mid morning Wednesday, Brenda had received dozens of flowers, chocolates, a teddy bear and other gifts. Most of all, she felt loved.
“I stopped at the accident site this morning, and I just felt so empty," she said. "Then, I came here and it took me two hours to be able to see ... all the tears. I was just overwhelmed,” she said.
Roxanne Brown is a reporter for the Leesburg (Fla.) Daily Commercial.