This Teen Opened a Time Capsule on Her 18th Birthday: Find Out What Was Inside

This might even beat a new car. For Abby Van Metre’s 18th birthday, she received a time capsule filled with notes from loved ones written nearly two decades ago. 

The gift, called “letters from heaven,” went viral with more than 151,000 shares and more than 22,400 comments, after Abby’s mom, Susie Van Metre, posted an emotional video of the high school senior opening her present on Tuesday, September 27. Watch her emotional reaction in the clip above!

Read Photography

Susie, 47, tells Us Weekly the idea came to her and her husband, Kent, in September 1999 when they were debating what to get their daughter for her 1st birthday. “We were thinking that we didn’t really want a bunch of presents for a 1-year-old who wouldn’t know what they were,” says the Cedar Rapids, Iowa–based vision therapist. “So we sent out a birthday invitation that said, ‘In lieu of gifts, please handwrite Abby a note or include something special for her 18th birthday.”

The 30 letters and mementos— including receipts, photographs and newspaper clippings — were stored inside a sealed box until September 22 of this year.

“This gift to me is the definition of priceless.” Abby tells Us. “There are seven letters from loved ones who have passed on. It’s so amazing that I get to have a conversation with people that I never thought I’d get to talk to again. The fact that I get to have one more last ‘I love you’ is something incredible that I am so blessed to get to experience.” 

One note was particularly special to the junior varsity swimmer. “My grandpa wrote the most beautiful letter,” says Abby. “It was one that just pulled on the heartstrings to a point where I had to sit down and come back to it an hour later. He wrote: ‘I may not be here on earth when you’re 18, but I’ll always be with you spiritually if not physically. I love you.'” 

Abby with her Papa Doug
Abby with her Papa Doug

The experience was equally emotional for Susie. “My brother’s letter made us cry,” says Susie. “He died in a car accident suddenly. But now it’s like we have a little piece of him back.”

Abby Van Metre
Abby Van Metre studioU photography

Abby’s sister, Holland, 14, will open her box in 2019.

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Want stories like these delivered straight to your phone? Download the Us Weekly iPhone app now!

Close popup

Welcome to In Motion

Bring photos to life with Us Weekly's exciting new mobile experience!

What's In Motion? Tell me more

What's In Motion?

Go back

How to Use In Motion

What's In Motion? Tell me more