Brenda Schmitz and her youngest son, Max, then 2 years old, shared a favorite song: "Over the Rainbow."
At the time, Schmitz and her family hadn't seen rain — let alone a rainbow — for five weeks when the wife and mother of four was hospitalized at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines for ovarian cancer.
But on the day of her death, in September 2011, a large, bright double rainbow cast across the sky.
Her husband, David, said this was the first but certainly not the last time Schmitz would give her family signs that she was watching over them.
Two years later, Schmitz has given her family an unexpected Christmas gift: a letter, written one month before she died at age 46, asking local radio station KSTZ "Star" 102.5 to grant her family three wishes.
"I was floored," David, 47, told The Times.
David, who now lives in the city of Nevada, Iowa, about 35 miles north of Des Moines, said the station had called and notified him that it had received a letter from someone who wanted to grant him a Christmas wish.
"I asked who it was from and they said it's personal and that I had to come down," he said.
When David, who works as a food services director, reached the station and it told him the news, he said that right away his first thought was: "Well how did you get a letter from my deceased wife?"
But in her letter, posted on the radio station's website, Schmitz explains it all.
"In more than 20 years of granting Christmas Wishes, we've never received a wish quite like the one we received from Brenda Schmitz," the radio station wrote in a post on its website.
Dated Aug. 3, 2011, the letter, typed by Schmitz, starts off with an introduction, followed by:
"When you are in receipt of this letter I will have already lost my battle to ovarian cancer."
Schmitz had asked a "dear friend," whose name was not revealed, to send the letter to the station when her "loving husband David had moved on in his life and met someone to share his life with again."
The timing of the letter came just several months after David got engaged to Jayne Abraham, who has two kids of her own.
As a fan of the station's Christmas Wish program, Schmitz wrote the letter as a way for her family to remember her.
"I want them to know I love them very much and they always feel safe in a world of pain," she wrote. "I was hoping that one small act you all could do for me can change and help their lives forever and they know I am with them always."
Schmitz's first Christmas wish was that "David's new lifelong partner" receive "pampering."
"Make her smile and know her efforts are truly appreciated from me," Schmitz wrote in the letter. "Thank you — I love you — whoever you are."
Second, Schmitz requested "a magical trip" for the whole family, so it can "create those memories that will be with them forever."
And finally she asked that the cancer doctors at Mercy Hospital and nurses of 8 South get a "night out full of drinks, food and fun for all they do every day for the cancer patients they encounter."
She signed off with "May God Bless and keep you all safe. Thanks for this. When you wish upon a star … ."
A 14:58-minute video clip, uploaded to YouTube by the radio station, shows David sobbing and wiping away tears with a tissue as the letter was read aloud by Colleen Kelly, a radio host.
In the radio broadcast, the station told David that with help from sponsors, all three of his late wife's wishes will be granted.
The family will fly to Disney World, where Abraham will also get pampered with a massage. Additionally, three coordinated food drops, provided by In the Bag Corporate Cuisine, will be provided to the oncology unit at Mercy Medical Center.
"Brenda was so loving and fantastic," David told The Times. "For her to have such foresight and do this after the fact is incredible."
As the holidays are a time when many reflect on their lost loved ones, David said this is "one of those great Christmastime stories."
"We feel very blessed," David said. "It might just be the best Christmas gift."