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The family of a 7-year-old Texas boy who recently passed away is thanking "Star Wars" actor Peter Mayhew for heartfelt condolences Mayhew expressed to the boy's friend.
Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca in the popular film franchise, replied to a boy named Liam who'd been mourning the loss of close friend and fellow "Star Wars" fan Sam Miller. According to a related GoFundMe fundraising page, Sam died in late October after an ATV accident.
"I am so sorry to hear that you won't be able to see the new 'Star Wars' movie with your friend," reads Mayhew's letter to Liam. "I know that sometimes things happen and we can't figure out why and all we feel is sadness. It's important to remember the fun you had with Sam. Best friends are never really gone, they live on forever in our hearts and memories."
Mayhew, 71, assured Liam that he would enjoy the new "Star Wars" installment, "The Force Awakens," and would make new friends who also love the franchise. "I wish you the very best, and May The Force Be With You!" wrote the actor, who signed the letter as "Peter 'Chewbacca' Mayhew."
The actor confirmed Tuesday that he'd written the letter that's since gone viral. "Liam's grandmother is a friend of my wife's sister,” he told RadioTimes.com. "My wife's sister reached out to me with his story. I hope my words were of some comfort to him."
It's been a comfort to the Miller family, at the very least. Sam's father, Scott, posted a photo of the letter Monday to the website Imgur, titled the image, "Good guy Peter Mayhew." Scott also addressed Mayhew on Twitter Monday afternoon, when the dad wrote, "Thank you for your kind words to Liam."
A related Reddit thread went viral Tuesday, when someone identifying as "Sam's older sister" recalled how Liam and Sam had promised to see the new movie with each other on Christmas.
"Sam was seven, and while he may have only been here for a short time in retrospect, he lived more than most adults I know. And boy, did he love 'Star Wars,'" wrote the Reddit user, using the handle @swagbueno. "The force was definitely strong with this one. … It's amazing to see the support we have been given through this time. I know Sam would have loved to know that Chewy knows who he is."
Family member Trina Miller has been posting tributes to Sam and updates about his story to a public Facebook page, "I am Sam, Sam I am."
On Monday, Trina shared a message from Liam's mom, who was preparing to share Mayhew's note with its intended recipient: "Liam will be so excited to see this when he gets home from school today and I have goosebumps because I KNOW that Sam is sitting in Heaven right now laughing his little tail off that CHEWBACCA is writing a letter about him!"
Added Trina, "This mighty God force is very strong around us all, right now. You cannot deny it, no matter how hard you try."
According to the GoFundMe page launched by a family friend in the aftermath of Sam's accident, Sam was remembered as a "great boy, and one of the kindest and most animated football players we have come to love." That fundraising page had collected almost $15,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
November has had its share of emotional moments of humanity among "Star Wars" fans. On Friday, terminal-cancer patient Daniel Fleetwood was granted his dying wish to view a cut of "The Force Awakens" ahead of the film's Dec. 19 release; he passed away earlier this week.
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