Dear Mommy,

A song is playing on my computer, and I just heard these words: “If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me.” So here goes:

Mommy, I miss you and I love you. I say that a lot, but I hope you know that I mean each word from the bottom of my heart.

Pride is overrated. I would gladly put down my ego and tell you how much I miss you. I know that I’ve hurt you time and time again, and everytime it happens, I hurt even more. It’s weird how love works. I used to be scared that if I hurt you too many times, you wouldn’t love me anymore. But now I know that you will always love me. Even after being apart for so long and not seeing you every day, you still love me more than I deserve. Just thinking about how unconditional your love is and how unworthy I am of it is enough to make me cry.

I’m so close to you, yet I’m so far away. I want to bridge that gap. I want to mend the friendship between us. Believe me, I’m trying my hardest. I want to be someone you’re proud of, but I can’t bring myself to come home to you.

I don’t want you to worry about me, but I know that worry is a natural side effect of love, so I promise you that I’m doing well. I’m smiling, I’m learning, I’m growing. I’m appreciative of all those around me at school, but I will always love you the most. Most days, there isn’t even a trace of sadness that passes through my mind. All I can think about is how thankful I am for you, for your love, for your unconditional friendship.

But once in awhile, a wave of sad emotions hits me. It might have to do with the fact that I’m listening to Hannah’s playlist called “Time to get sad,” but I knew that this sadness would come eventually. I’m thinking about how much I miss you. I’m thinking about how genuine, how kind, how lovely you are. And I’m thinking about how I told you I wanted to move away from you in order to be closer to you. I remember how supportive you were -- are -- of me. I remember the bittersweet goodbye. I remember all the times you've raced through my mind unexpectedly, leaving me with a sense of longing as well as warm, warm love. I will never forget this feeling in my heart, this longing to be near you.

I admire you for so many things. I’m so sorry I never told you all of these things that I love and admire about you; I know you know them already, but I want to spell them out anyway.

I love you for your kindness.

You don’t seem to hold any hate in your heart; it’s a foreign concept to you. With all you’ve been through, you’ve seen how precious life and love are. You only know to be kind to everyone you know, because every person has a story to tell and battles to fight.

I love you for your genuine wonder at the world.

You can find a silver lining in any brown paper bag; you can always find something to smile about -- something for me to smile about. I remember all the times you’ve seen me pout: you proceeded to turn my frown upside down as soon as you could. Think of all the adventures we’ve had in China. Every time I got annoyed or upset, you would point out a pretty tree or cloud to make me smile. You find beauty in the smallest, most obscure things. You give meaning to the meaningless parts of every day. You can sit for hours just enjoying the gift of life. You have such peace in yourself. When Leo was in the hospital, you were calm and composed as I was pacing the room back and forth. You silently gave your strength to Leo, exactly when he needed it most. I’ve never seen a love like yours before.

I love you for your selflessness.

You’ve given and given and given and never have you ever asked for anything in return. Lao Lao always tells me about how selfless you are, about how you can give yourself to the world and not expect the world to give you a single thing back. I see you, day in and day out, pouring yourself in Leo and me. More than anything, I want to give something back to you, but I don’t know what I could possibly give that would ever come close to what you’ve given me.

I love you for your strength.

I could not imagine fighting the wars you’ve fought. You’re not only a disciplined soldier, but a kind one. You trust in the world to help you -- with good reason. You deserve every ounce of help the world can give you; that is why you have the best luck in the unluckiest of places. Every time I’m worried that Leo’s strength will fail, you have faith that he will stand back up. And through this faith of yours, I develop a faith as well. I can rely on you like a rock. I look up to your courage and love endlessly.

So, that being said, you now know that I will never stop loving you. Even if I ended up on the other side of the galaxy, I would never stop loving you. I would lose my own life before I lost my love for you.

Again, don’t worry about me. I’m better than I have ever been, finding myself and my purpose in life little by little. I’m better than I have ever been, fighting my own battles and using my own voice. I’m better than I have ever been, growing up and growing in my love for you.

See you soon,

Your dear darling daughter, I-Lin-Lin :)