In the spring of 2000, overwhelmed with applications to nearly a dozen colleges, Stephanie Soscia didn't think much about the simple, hand-written letter her mother Nancy wrote on behalf of her Smith application. But she kept it.
"Ever since she was very young, Stephanie has understood responsibility," the letter reads. "At the age of 8 she proposed that in order to receive an allowance she would get up earlier in the morning to help with the pre-school children I cared for."
It probably made little difference in Smith's decision to admit Stephanie. But after she graduated in 2004, when her mother began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease, Stephanie reread the letter and realized how much it meant to her. Two summers ago, she carried it with her on a 350-mile bike ride to raise money for Alzheimer's research.
"She never went to college, and my father never graduated from high school," said Soscia, who earned a doctorate in neurobiology and now works on Alzheimer's research at Harvard. "She wanted to be part of the process but she really didn't know how to contribute."
When Stephanie rediscovered the letter, "I loved reading it," she said. "I cry every time."
"When you lose a parent either because of death or in my case a debilitating brain disease, sometimes there are things that go left unsaid," she said. "I find I can get closure through that letter. I know that during our time together her love for me was strong, and she really put her all into it."
Follow Justin Pope at http://www.twitter.com/JustinPopeAP
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