Most high school seniors hope for a cash-filled card and a later curfew on their 18th birthday. Some really lucky teens might even get keys to a used car. But Iowa teen Abby Van Metre received a unique and amazing gift that will have parents everywhere taking notes.
The gift? An antique box filled with over 30 letters from family and friends as well other mementos like receipts, photographs, and newspaper clippings that were collected on her first birthday.
Abby’s mom, Susie Van Metre, posted an emotional video of the high school senior opening her “Letters from Heaven” last month and the world has been going crazy about it ever since. In fact, the video has been shared nearly 160,000 times since it was posted on September 27.
Van Metre said the idea came to her and her husband, Kent, in September 1999 when the world was prepping for the new millennium. They heard people talking about time capsules and as they prepared for their daughter’s first birthday, they realized that the idea might make the perfect gift someday.
“We didn’t really need or want a bunch of presents for a one-year-old who wouldn’t appreciate them or even know what they were,” Van Metre told Babble via email. “My grandparents were still alive and I thought it would be so special to have something from them. Plus, what a neat gift to have all these people who love her write her these letters and store them away until she can appreciate the sentiment behind them.”
So along with the birthday party invitation, they included this unique request: In lieu of gifts, please write Abby a note or include something special for her 18th birthday.
They sealed the letters in a plastic baggie inside an antique box, which they placed on shelf so it looked like a decoration in their home. “We never even looked or opened the letters when we received them in 1999. They weren’t ours to open, so it was easy to keep it a secret,” Van Metre said.
Needless to say, the great reveal was emotional for the entire family, as some of the letters were from family members who have since passed on — like Abby’s grandfather who died five years ago and her Uncle John (below) who died three years ago in a car accident.
“When she opened the letters from the people that had passed away, they were all handwritten, when you see their handwriting, it is so visceral — it’s almost like you are having a conversation with them,” Van Metre said.
The word “priceless” gets thrown around a lot, but in the words of Abby, “This gift to me is the definition of priceless.”
We couldn’t agree more.