A message in the bottle, washed ashore on Monkey Island, may have fulfilled a long-ago quest to help a granddaughter make a new friend.
Earlier this month, Aimee Gelinas and her husband, Josh, were searching along the shoreline of Grand Lake for bottles, driftwood and other items which could be repurposed into decor for their landscaping business Lake Country Lawn and Landscape.
The pair, Gelinas said, often take hikes, searching for items which might make a unique piece for either themselves or a customer.
That day, the pair were hiking along the shoreline on Monkey Island, scouring through debris left on the shore from past floods.
Gelinas said a green bottle caught her eye, so she went one direction while Josh went another.
Then, amidst the field of driftwood, Gelinas found another bottle. One which appeared to have a message hidden inside.
"I picked it up, I didn't want to get too excited, I was just trying to process and figure out is it was what I thought it was," Gelinas said, adding she yelled for Josh to come to her side.
"It was a clear bottle with some markings on it. Inside it looked like there was a rolled up message," she recalled. "Josh opened it, as he started unrolling it, we could see that there was writing on it."
The hand-written message, dated June 30, 1993, included Sarah Hendrickson's name, age at the time - 14, her address in Woodbridge, Virginia, and the fact that she attended Grace Baptist Church.
For Gelinas, the message became the genesis of a journey, which would eventually lead her to a woman, not living in Virginia, but who had relocated to Joplin.
Using Google and Facebook, the Gelinases began to look for Sarah Hendrickson. The pair also contacted local media, including The Grove Sun and Channel 2 in Tulsa.
After an initial story aired on Channel 2, Aimee Gelinas was contacted by Susan Olzawski Barrett, a member of the "Search Squad."
That group of men and women often use their talents and skills to help connect and reunite people, especially those adoptive individuals seeking information about their birth families.
Within two hours of contacting Gelinas, Barrett - who lives in Tulsa - said the group of Search Angels were able to track down a possible Sarah Hendrickson, based upon family records available online.
Sarah Hendrickson, now known as Sarah Lindgren, turned out to live in Joplin, Missouri.
Gelinas sent Lindgren a message through Facebook, providing her information from the letter, as well as a link to the Channel 2 story.
Lindgren replied, and confirmed that she was indeed the missing Sarah Hendrickson.
Last Friday, the pair met for the first time in person, as the Gelinases traveled to Joplin to give Lindgren the bottle and message.
Behind the message
Lindgren said she didn't remember writing the message.
In fact, family records, kept meticulously by her military father, indicate she was at camp in North Carolina at the time it was written.
When she saw the message, first in photographs, then in person, Lindgren knew it was her grandmother, Fay Hendrickson who wrote the letter.
Hendrickson was a long-time Carthage, Missouri resident before her death in July 2004. At one time, Hendrickson owned and operated Sarah's Violets in Carthage.
Family members believe Hendrickson may have dropped the bottle - with its message - into Spring River. That river, which is part of the Grand River Watershed, eventually feeds into Grand Lake below Twin Bridges.
Lindgren said she's confident, if her grandmother wrote a message for her, she also created one for her brother, Stephen.
"I don't know why she would do this," Lindgren said. "There's no rhyme or reason.
"I truly believe though, whatever reason grandma had, she's still with me. Reminding me that what gets lost, does eventually get found."
Lindgren said her grandmother, while stubborn and a bit outspoken, was an "amazing person" who spent much of her life as her granddaughter's protector.
Lindgren said she has memories of her grandmother pulling the heads of grasshoppers, because of Lindgren's fear of the bug. She has other memories of her grandmother taking a local bully to task - who eventually was won over and sought out her grandmother's help.
"This is totally not out of her character," Lindgren said. "That was my grandma."
Lindgren said while she moved around a lot because of her father's military career, her grandparents home in Carthage was a safe haven.
She spent many summers in Carthage, and eventually at the age of 16, moved in with her grandparents.
"Most of the stuff I have of my grandparents, I've lost over the years," Lindgren said. "But what I do have left, is mainly my grandfather's.
"It's nice to have a piece of my grandmother's. Something she did specifically for me. It really means a lot."
New found bond
Gelinas said she felt an instant connection with Lindgren. The pair have spent several hours in the last week talking on the phone and sending each other text messages.
"I told her there's something that made me look at that bottle," Gelinas said. "I don't know what it was, but I told her I think it's bigger than you and I.
"It's brought us together."
Lindgren agreed. She said while she could make acquaintances as a military brat, she often struggled to make close friends. It's been different with Gelinas.
"With Aimee it was an instant connection," Lindgren said. "It's just truly been an amazing connection.
"I've made a new friend."
Gelinas said she thinks the impossible happened that day she found the bottle, saying it was almost as if Fay Hendrickson came back to give her granddaughter a reminder of her love.
"It's like we've known each other for years," Gelinas said. "I don't know how it all came together, but I do feel something happening here for a reason."
Gelinas marvels at how the bottle remained in tact, with only a bit of condensation keeping the message damp.
"The journey the bottle must have taken," Gelinas said. "How did it not break as it traveled in all of the rivers, all of the floods? How long has it been on our shoreline?"
For now, Gelinas said she plans to keep hunting for items along Grand Lake's shoreline, joking that finding something as good as the message in a bottle, may be like finding a needle in a haystack.
"I never find anything that good," Gelinas said with a laugh.