Lydia,

There are a few things I would like you to know.

The first and most important thing is how much I love you. I loved you from the first moment I knew you were on your way and I will love you forever. Nothing will change that. Not bullets. Not war. If they come for me in the middle of the night while you sleep, they can cut the breath from my body but they cannot tear the love from my heart. That is indestructible. And it is yours.

My love for you is not bound by time or circumstance. If you reach for me, even if you cannot see me, I will be there.

The second thing I wish to tell you is to never forget who you are.

It’s true that you will spend much of your life figuring this out for yourself, on your own time, in your own way. I will never forget the moment they placed you arms your very first day on this earth, but my secret hope for you is that you will be far away from me on my last day. I want you to climb your own mountains, achieve your own successes, and forge your own path. But your mother wants to you know where you get that from.

You come from a line of women with thick legs, small waists, dark eyes and stubbornness that melts mountains. Your mother, grandmother, and great grandmother do not understand the meaning of failure. We have suffered, yes. We grieve. We fight. And yet when all is said and done, we are standing, streaked with mud, while others have fallen. Do not fear the battle, my darling. Fear not being able to fight. Fear cowardice. Fear excuses.

Your integrity is tantamount to your identity. Do not believe those who tell you to sacrifice it for gain. Fight to protect it. It is more valuable than your life, for your reputation will not end when you die. Your mother expends great energy in an attempt to be an honorable woman. Follow her example.

Do not be afraid to love fully, nor should you fear the inevitable losses that will come from cleaving to someone. Like war, love is messy and unpredictable. Always have an exit strategy. Do not rely on a man to protect you. The type of woman you are is better at protecting men than the other way around. Society will tell you than women need to be protecting because we are not as strong. But men are nothing without our devotion. If you ever meet a man who is worthy of you, protect his heart and his reputation, not his ego. If he does not value this quality about you, show him the door. You are worthy of a lifetime of sacrifice and respect from your partner, nothing less.

Make no excuses for your excellence, and be gracious when you fail. How you fail is more important than how you succeed. Do not burn bridges unless those bridges are attached to versions of yourself you wish to leave behind. Always move forward, and do not look back.

Your mother learned at a young age to be loyal. It is a rare quality almost impossible to find. It is a quality that stems from seeking the truth first, and then speaking it in love.

Take the path of most resistance. It not only the path that holds the most adventure, it will disabuse you of the notion that the pieces in front of you only tell one story, or that everything is as it seems. Rest assured that it is not.

Pray every day.

Take risks.

Listen to your inner voice.

Be kind.

And never give up, for I know the strength I was given now flows through you.

Ever yours,

Your mother.

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