Wisconsin mom Heather McManamy, who has stage IV breast cancer, wrote a card for practically every moment — big or small — in her daughter’s life. (Photo: Heather McManamy)
Even after she’s passed away, 35-year-old Heather McManamy hopes she can be a source of unconditional love for her 4-year-old daughter, Brianna.
McManamy, who lives in McFarland, Wis., with her husband, Jeff, and their daughter, was 33 when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. Now, two years later, it has metastasized in her bones and liver, giving her stage IV cancer. “It’s heartbreaking to know that my family is going to be sad and go through a painful loss without me to comfort them. That is the hardest part of all this some days,” McManamy tells Yahoo Parenting. So she decided to start writing cards so she could be there for her daughter even after she’s gone.
Brianna will have a card for practically every moment — big or small — of her life. “You name it, and I’ve got a card for it,” her mother says. “Some have a lot written inside, and some are just short and sweet. Like what I’d write if I were here.” She has cards written for Brianna’s birthdays, graduation, wedding, first baby, and everything in between. Brianna, who also goes by Bri, will also have “Sorry it’s a bad day” and “Way to kick butt” cards along with other unique moments. So far, Heather has stopped at Bri’s 30th birthday.
McManamy has written cards for her 4-year-old daughter’s future birthdays, graduations, and wedding, among other moments. (Photo: Heather McManamy)
McManamy started buying the cards several months ago but found it difficult to actually start writing. “Once I did, though, it brought me so much comfort and peace of mind, I plowed through them,” she says. “I’m still picking up random cards here and there to add to the collection.”
“I hope that she’ll feel my unconditional love for her and know that I’m still with her,” McManamy adds. “I hope she can feel the pride I’ll have for her on big days and my hugs on tough ones. And know that I love her with my whole heart forever and ever. No matter what.”
Heather and Jeff McManamy with Brianna. (Photo: Heather McManamy)
But McManamy says she’ll be OK if Bri doesn’t want to read the cards because they make her too sad. “I don’t expect her to do anything in life other than find her happiness,” she says. “There are no strings attached to this stuff. If Bri never opens a card or watches a video, I’m A-OK with that.” Heather says she trusts Jeff to do what’s right for their daughter. “If it isn’t right, he won’t give it to her. Maybe a week or two after her birthday will be the right time. Maybe it will be never. It will be absolutely OK however it plays out.”
McManamy hopes that other moms will also write cards or letters to their children — even if they don’t have cancer. “Every day, the fact I will die is in my face. Most people have the luxury of being naive to that fact,” she says. “But here’s the thing — you could go before me.” She says several friends have told her they wish they had a card or a video from their parents to hold on to. “Taking a few minutes to do something like that could provide your loved ones with an incredible amount of comfort. So why not?”