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dale earnhardt jr with late mom brenda jackson during sportscenter segment YouTube: ESPN
YouTube: ESPN

The last couple Mother’s Days have probably been pretty bittersweet Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller. On April 22, 2019, their mother Brenda Jackson passed away following a battle with cancer. She was 65.

To look back on happier Mother’s Days, we go back to 2017, when Dale Jr participated in a SportsCenter Featured segment during which he read aloud a heartwarming letter that he wrote to his mother.

Junior didn’t think that she would read it until that Sunday, but as it turns out, Brenda was just in the next room, listening via earpiece to the whole thing. It’s impossible not to get just a little bit choked up watching this, especially during the moment when Brenda surprises Dale when he’s finished reading the letter.

You can read the heartfelt letter in its entirety below:

Dear Brenda,

I thank God every day that you and Dad brought my sister and me into this world. But, I think back as a 6-year-old kid, you a single mother, us losing everything in a house fire. You gave custody of us two kids to our father, knowing he could provide a promising future.

I remember your 12-hour round trips for your summer visit. I remember your Norfolk apartment floor covered in presents each Christmas.

I’m thankful that we are together today, as I am now older and wiser to appreciate the sacrifices that you made for us. You never failed at making me feel loved. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

As Dale Jr. briefly touched on in the letter, the Earnhardts went through some tough times when they were a young family.

Brenda married Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1972, and the couple divorced in 1974 when Kelley Earnhardt Miller (who co-owns JR Motorsports with her brother) was two and Junior was basically a newborn.

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Kelley and Dale wound up living with their mom in Norfolk, Virginia, but after the house burned down around six years later, Brenda gave up custody of the two kids to Dale Sr. Eventually, Brenda remarried Norfolk firefighter Willie Jackson and moved back to North Carolina to work with her kids at JR Motorsports as an accounting specialist.

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It’s clear that Brenda’s kids were especially important to her, and seeing moments like the above video hits that home more than anything.

This post was originally published on May 9, 2019.

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