The Story of the Sandpiper-Unclear!

The Story of the SandpiperUnclear!

Summary of eRumor:

This story is about a woman dealing with the death of her mother who encounters an apparently happy little girl on the beach who, at first, is annoying to her but in the end turns out to be a source of deep thought and inspiration.  


The Truth:

This story is circulated on the Internet as having been written by either Robert Peterson or Ruth Peterson, the name of the woman in the story.
In reality, it was written by a woman named Mary Sherman Hilbert and a version of it was published in Reader’s Digest in 1980.
Is it true?
The Reader’s Digest article included an explanation from the author that a neighbor of hers had told her of “an experience” she had while walking on a beach in Washington state.  Mary Sherman Hilbert says she took notes at the time then later recalled the conversation and decided to write about it.  
What percentage of the story is real and what percentage is creative fiction is not clear, but at least we know where it came from and can attach the correct author’s name to it.