When Julie Yip-Williams was first diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, she did a great deal of soul-searching and made a lot of requests to the universe for guidance and clarity at this difficult time.
Unfortunately, she said she never received any significant response, so her next step in dealing with her condition and mortality in general was to write down everything she was experiencing and thinking.
Many of her chronicled writings and thoughts on life — and death — were published in her powerful memoir, “The Unwinding of the Miracle.”
In it, Julie Yip-Williams described her life journey, starting in Vietnam where she was born blind due to cataracts. Her grandmother even suggested killing her as a baby due to these birth defects, to avoid her having a difficult life. Luckily, her parents refused this request.
A few years later, the family moved to Hong Kong and later to the U.S. She was able to have some of her cataracts treated by surgery, although she always suffered from vision problems.
She eventually studied law at Harvard. She became a successful lawyer, was married, and gave birth to two daughters, Mia and Isabella.
Along with the material used in her “Unwinding” book, Julie Yip-Williams also wrote a series of letters of note to her daughters, instructing them to not read them until after her death in 2018, roughly five years after her cancer diagnosis.
The still-poignant letters of note start out discussing practical matters, such as tips and strategies to keeping their home clean, when their next dental appointment is, and a reminder what kind of food their family dog, Chipper, prefers to eat.
But then Julie’s words moved into more serious territory. She discusses what she liked and regretted about being a mom to them.
Even in death, she said she’s concerned about the pain her death will cause them, through no fault of their own. She’s worried about how both girls will grow up impacted by a mother who passed away painfully and will not be able to attend special moments of their lives, such as graduations and weddings.
As a writer, Julie knew the value of finding just the right word at just the right occasion, and there’s plenty of vivid personal expression here. There’s also some universal feelings about motherhood and mortality that can be addressed, such as “the fact of your mother dying will weave into the fabric of your lives like a glaring stain on an otherwise perfect tableau” and “Every time you yearn for me, it will hurt all over again and you will wonder why.”
Julie admits she doesn’t have any sort of answer about why she has to die, why bad things happen, and why life isn’t fair. She also challenges them to take this tragedy and turn it into a source of beauty, love, strength, courage and wisdom.
This and other letters of note could be interesting and inspiring for those who have experienced difficult things in their life and have looked for ways to keep on going through the pain.