When Ruth Murray texted her dead brother Mike’s phone, all she sought was a connection.
The 36-year-old from Minneapolis got more than she bargained for when one day the number messaged back.
Amber Leinweber, 32, of Wisconsin, was a stranger to Ruth two weeks ago but now, after bonding over shared grief and that very number, they are firm friends.
And thanks to the BBC, they not only know each other’s real names but have been able to speak and hear each other’s voices for the first time.
They had been texting all this time but not once picked up the phone.
Then after the BBC story was published on Friday and read by millions around the world, Radio 4’s PM programme decided to get them together on the radio show.
And soon it was a case of “Hi Amber” and “Hi Ruth” as the women said hello and explained how they had been brought together.
Ruth told presenter Jonny Dymond and psychologist and author Elaine Kasket: “I had been texting [Mike’s] number almost every day since he passed just to tell him jokes or you know, something I had seen during the day that reminded me of him.
“I just felt like I was still kind of talking to him. So it wasn’t out of the ordinary that I was sending that text but it was out of the ordinary that somebody responded, of course.”
Ruth admitted she wasn’t sure whether to open Amber’s response but she was glad she did: “The second I opened it and just saw how kind and empathetic she was, I kind of knew that we had started at least a conversation that would last a while but [has] certainly turned into a friendship now.
Amber said she responded because she didn’t want Ruth to feel ignored, and although Ruth apologised for messaging in the first place, it was that contriteness that sparked Amber’s desire to continue to listen.
She said: “The day that I got the the text it was a Sunday, I had just found out that my cousin who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year decided to stop her treatment.
“So she was expected to pass any day. So I was really, you know, struck by what [Ruth] said – that it was her brother’s number and, and then what really, really got me was the sorry at the end.”
But it was after Ruth shared a screen grab of the pair’s first exchanges on Reddit that the story went viral. She wrote: “My brother passed six months ago and I still texted him frequently. Today, I got a response.”
The pair plan to stay in touch, with Amber saying that she felt the two women were destined to be in touch.