STOCKTON, Calif. -- A California mother says she has a new sense of peace after receiving a letter written in 2000 by her late 16-year-old son.
Aaron Vickers was shot and killed at age 19, two years after he wrote the letter, which was addressed to himself.
Last week, a teacher at Vickers' high school contacted his family on Facebook to let them know he'd found the letter.
Vickers was supposed to read the letter in 2010, but his sister Tyra Vickers-Kearney ended up reading it six years later.
"This letter coming when it came was my brother’s way of saying, you know, 'Good job for keeping my memory alive, I appreciate it,'" Tyra said. “Still a huge hole in my heart, a huge void in our lives.”
Fourteen years ago, a drive-by shooting killed Vickers, an aspiring NFL player, rapper and soon-to-be father. His murder remains unsolved.
Every year on the anniversary of his death, his family visits the place in South Stockton where he was shot and lays out flowers and candles for him.
His teacher, Daryl Hutchins, kept his letter for over a decade. Hutchins said he didn't learn of Vickers' death until earlier this year from a former student.
He found the "Rest in Peace Aaron Vickers" Facebook page and connected with Vickers' sister and mother. He sent them the letter in October.
"Tears rolled down my face. It was all types of emotions happening at one time,” Tyra said.
The letter is four pages long, written in black and blue ink, and was a welcome surprise for the family.
"I felt like as she was reading the letter my son was still sitting right next to me,” said Deanetta Vickers, Aaron’s mother.
She said the words gave a sense of peace, breathed life into her son's memory and brought his family closer together.
"To me it was his way of saying, ‘It’s OK, Mom. Thank you for taking care of my son, thank you for keeping my memory alive, and I’m OK,’” Deanetta told KTXL.
The Vickers said they are extremely grateful to Aaron’s former teacher for sending them the letter.
Hutchins said he is just doing his job. He is now teaching in Quincy, California, in Plumas County and is on a mission to send out the "future self messages" to 318 former students.