Liz Morris has her phone back, and she said it’s nothing short of a miracle.
The phone, which stored the only images and videos she had of the last three months of her mother’s life before she died of pancreatic cancer in January, was stolen from The Bitter End in downtown Halifax early Saturday morning.
When she spoke to The Chronicle Herald for a story on Monday, Morris had very little hope she would ever see the device, and those precious photos again.
Enter the kindness of one very brave stranger, who had experienced something similar.
On Tuesday, Morris received a text from Mariah Williams over Facebook Messenger. It said she knew who took the phone and who purchased it.
“I didn’t think it was real. I thought is this a joke, is it a scam?” said Liz.
Williams told Morris she recognized the photo on the lock screen on a phone a friend had found a few nights before.
Williams, 24, is a single mother who is studying nursing at Dalhousie University. A few months ago, she was mugged and her phone was smashed.
On the phone were photos of her father Jason Andrew Smith who was murdered in East Preston in December 2019.
“They smashed my phone right in front of me. I literally walked home crying and screaming because I thought I just lost all the pictures of my dad,” Williams said. She was able to recover some photos, but others are gone forever.
On Friday, Williams and a few friends were enjoying a night off with a few drinks at the bar. When a friend told her she found a phone, Williams didn’t think much of it. She thought her friend would give it back or hand it to the bartender.
Days later when she realized the phone was stolen and how important it was to Morris, she knew she had to do something.
But it wasn’t easy. Her friend sold it to her brother for $400 and he wanted the money back.
“To me it’s ridiculous,” Williams said. “This woman lost her mother and all you guys can think about is $400.”
At 6 p.m. Tuesday night Williams notified Morris the man refused to give the phone back and Morris started panicking.
“I told her there’s a video on there of my mom singing me a song from when I was a little girl, from in the hospital, and where she tells me she loves me for the last time, please, please I need that back.”
Williams decided she would go over to his house and demand the phone in person. She told the siblings to work out the money issue between them.
“I went through a lot,” Williams said. “I got slapped in the face by my friend and had to go tell her mother, but I got her phone back.”
Morris and Williams decided to meet at a parking lot in Dartmouth Tuesday night. Some friends of Morris's wanted to come along for protection but Morris was worried about scaring Williams off. They decided to observe, but they started chatting with Williams.
It turns out they knew people in common, including Williams’s father.
Her friend said to Williams, “I want you to know what you’re doing is a beautiful and amazing thing and your father would be so damn proud of you,” Morris said.
Williams said that felt really good.
“He’s always still there but it made me feel he was rolling around in his grave in a good way, like ‘that’s the way I raised you.’”
Williams couldn’t wait to give Morris her phone.
“To me, it just felt like a weight lifted. To me, I felt like it was my fault, I should have said something to my friend at the bar but I was drinking, I didn’t care about the phone she had found,” Williams said.
When Morris powered it up, she asked Williams if she could hug her.
“I threw half my body in her vehicle and I just bawled on her shoulder,” Morris said.“It was all a big happy ending and we all hugged and we all were in tears.”
Morris, also a single mother, begged Williams to take $100 for her efforts and, after a lot of pleading, Williams accepted.
Later that night they continued talking over Messenger and Morris pledged her friendship for life. Morris told her: “I got you. I forever have your back.”
Through sharing common experiences, Willams told Morris her car was continually breaking down and she needed to get something reliable that she could afford. That, and she needed to find a new apartment. Since then, Morris and her friend have been searching furiously for Williams.
“Now I feel like I’ve made a friend out of the whole deal. It’s just a miracle, an absolute miracle,” Morris said.
It’s the same for Williams.
“I’m sad she lost her phone but I told her I’m kind of happy because I met you guys, you wonderful ladies who are willing to help me out when I don’t have anybody.”
On Thursday, Morris launched a gofundme campaign to help out her "hero."