Early Thursday morning, my aunt notified our family of something unimaginable — she had received a text from my mother.
Just weeks ago this wouldn’t have been outside of the norm — she and my mom texted and FaceTimed nearly every day for years. But this text, a message from Valentine’s Day, had arrived just after the two-month anniversary of my mom’s death.
“I just got a message from Cathy. No, I’m not kidding,” my aunt, Denise Baldwin, said of the text from my mother, Toni “Cat” Hahn-Quant. “It’s a happy Valentine’s day with hearts and I love you. It came from her phone number and appeared as a new message this morning. Don’t explain it, let’s all just enjoy that it happened. I love you guys.”
I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I figured it was possible her cell carrier reassigned her number, wires were crossed in the process, and the message was meant for someone else. But when I saw a screenshot of the message, I recognized my mother’s signature touches — punctuation errors she couldn’t care less about correcting, and her tendency to overindulge in emoji.
It was her.
I soon did what I’ve done many times throughout my grieving process since she passed away at 63 on Sept. 4 from brain cancer — I tried to block it from my mind. I took my aunt’s advice, thinking maybe this was something that didn’t need an explanation, at least for the moment.
That is, until I went on Twitter and discovered we weren’t the only ones receiving unexpected messages that morning.
Smartphone users across the country jumped on social media to report receiving a Valentine’s Day text message that morning, eight months after they were originally sent.
Turns out, more than 168,000 undelivered texts from Feb. 14 were sent out late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning due to an “internal maintenance cycle,” technology and business company Syniverse told CNN.
The glitch affected Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile and was reported in both Apple and Android devices.
People who awoke to the previously unsent texts — some from former flames or, like in my case, from a recently deceased loved one — understandably had emotional responses.
“Someone just responded to a text I sent 9 months ago, all the way back on February 14th,” wrote Twitter user Tim Johnson on Thursday. “It landed in their inbox at 1:50 this morning.”
Y’all... my damn phone apparently delivered a text to my ex at 5am this morning that was supposed to be sent in FEBRUARY. The universe wants me to fail— jamie ✨ (@PBandJamiee) November 7, 2019
For Twitter user Daniel Andelin, a previously unsent text revealed he may have missed out on a chance with someone he was interested in.
“Got a text last night from a girl I almost dated back in February,” he wrote. “I was really confused until I realized the text was also sent back in February. It said, ‘Yes, I’d love to go out for Valentine’s Day’. Now I know why we never dated.”
“I went off on my man yesterday for sending me a random at 3 am just to find out T-Mobile & Sprint had a glitch that sent out texts from February,” wrote another Twitter user. “Now I think my relationship is on the line.”
Overnight my phone decided to send and receive text messages I sent and should have received in February. 🤔🤔🤔— Kif 🦖🦕⚖️ (@kif1111) November 7, 2019
One user, who goes by the handle @KuribHoe, said she received a text from her best friend from February — the same month she died.
ABI research analyst Leo Gergs told CNN that the glitch likely affected Valentine’s Day because of the “abnormally high” amount of texts that are sent that day.
“I don’t care how it happened, just that it did happen,” my aunt told me of receiving the text, which, through a technological imperfection, found its way to her from the past.
“I was able to smile and be happy that my sister had another chance to say I love you,” she added. “It was such a precious gift.”
After seeing my mom’s message on my aunt’s phone, I did something I haven’t done since she passed — I opened up our text message chain on my iPhone, and I scrolled.
I scrolled through conversations about doctors’ appointments, arguments that I now regret, and funny pictures she sent me of my cat. I kept going until I reached Feb. 14.
“Happy. Valentine’s. Day!” my mother wrote to me, before adding six heart emoji. “Pie here. Chocolate. There will b some tomorrow too.”