What started as a creative and lovely birthday idea would eventually become a heart-wrenching yet beautiful birthday gift nearly two decades later. For Abby van Metre’s first birthday, her mom Susie asked family and friends to write letters for her to read when she turned 18, as she thought that gifts wouldn’t be remembered or appreciated by a baby.

Susie and her husband sealed the letters away without ever reading them, and presented the ‘treasure chest’ of letters to Abby on her 18th birthday. Little did they know how meaningful these letters would become. Since it’s been 18 years, many of the letters are from family members who have passed on, but they have left an incredible gift for a young adult finding her way in the world.