Susie Chesser received an unexpected gift that has had her smiling since she opened it on Christmas Day.
Chesser, of Aiken, received an autographed rookie card, signed jersey and letter from former Atlanta Braves player Dale Murphy. What makes this story even better is that the package had been mistaken for a gift that Chesser purchased for her husband. When it came in the mail, she wrapped it, and it sat under the tree until Christmas Day.
The family was completely unaware of the huge surprise that was awaiting Chesser.
“It was just an unbelievable Christmas,” Chesser said. “It was just so serendipitous, really.”
Chesser has been a big Atlanta Braves fan since her marriage to her husband, Richard, in 1981. She kept two Dale Murphy baseball cards in her wallet along with photos of her family. Murphy, who played in the major leagues until 1993, has always been her favorite player.
“He's always done good work – he's just a good person,” Chesser said. “He's someone who has always done good things. He's someone you'd want your children to follow and emulate. Nobody can hold a candle to Dale Murphy.”
Unfortunately, her wallet was stolen six years ago, and she never bothered replacing the baseball cards.
Over the summer, Chesser was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her daughter, Catherine Chesser Woods, wanted to do something special for her mother to help keep that vibrant smile on her face. She remembered the two stolen cards and decided to reach out to the baseball player to see if he would send an autographed card to Chesser.
In October, Woods managed to get in touch with who she believed to be Murphy's assistant. They told Woods they would see what they could do.
Woods heard nothing more.
“I didn't think much of it,” Woods said. “I figured he was busy and gets lots of requests.”
Christmas arrived, and the family was sitting around the tree opening gifts. Chesser's husband began unwrapping a present when a flash of light blue caught Woods' eye. She then saw the signature on the back of what turned out to be a baseball jersey.
“I saw the autograph and started crying,” Woods said. “I then realized that it was for mom.”
Chesser was stunned and was in such shock, she had Richard read the handwritten letter from the famed baseball player:
“Dear Susie – Just wanted to say thank you so much for being my biggest fan over the years. I know you have some health issues that you are dealing with now. I hope and pray that you'll be well. God bless you! Dale Murphy, Atlanta Braves #3.”
By that point, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, Woods said.
Chesser, who was already gracefully handling cancer with a positive attitude, said this made her feel even better.
“It was a good perk for my spirits,” Chesser said. “I'm going through chemotherapy, and this was a great boost.”
A little later in the day, Chesser's husband surprised her with a Lexus. At that point, Chesser was worn out but ecstatic by all the wonderful surprises. She said she almost felt embarrassed by all the generosity, but Woods' said her mother deserved it all.
“I have the best family in the world,” Chesser said. “Everyone has been so wonderful to me.”
Chesser said if she could say anything to Murphy, it would be “thank you” for being so kind and thoughtful as well as being the kind of person she'd like her children to look up to.
As for Woods, she was beyond touched by the gift that meant so much to both her mother and the family.
“It's still hard to believe that he did that. It was great,” Woods said with a huge grin. “He made my mama smile.”