Note To Self: One woman's story of strength in the face of "unbearable" loss

Strength and hope amid "unbearable" loss

Over the years "CBS This Morning" has asked politicians, actors, veterans, singers, athletes, and even an astronaut to write to their younger selves. They've reflected on the defining moments and lessons learned in their lives. In this note, we hear from Heather Duckworth of Tampa, Florida, who was chosen after we asked our viewers to submit their own letters. We received submissions from 49 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Canada. Heather's story of strength and resiliency in the face of great loss stood out to us.

Our first book, "Note to Self: Inspiring Words From Inspiring People," is now on sale. The book features some of our most memorable notes, collected and introduced by "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King, including Congressman John Lewis, Maya Angelou, Chelsea Handler, OprahVice President Joe Biden and more

Heather Duckworth CBS News

Dear Younger You,
Look at you. So young and innocent! I wish I could keep you like this always.
You will marry your childhood friend, the one you have known your whole life….kissing as toddlers while your parents were stationed together in the military....the one who really used to annoy you. But don't worry, this will be the best decision you ever make. He will love you boldly through every peak and valley of your life.
You will be anxious to start a family. Unfortunately, the joy of first pregnancy will turn to disappointment and sorrow when you have a miscarriage. This will be your first sting of loss, but remember to stay positive because brighter days are ahead. 

A year later you will be blessed with a son. And a year after that, you will find yourself pregnant again. You will have a slight complication and fear the worst. You will nervously go to the doctor and instead get the surprise of your life: You are expecting triplets. You will cry with relief as you see three tiny heartbeats on the sonogram. After a difficult pregnancy, and feeling as big as a barn, you will give birth to three beautiful, healthy baby boys. You will love these four boys fiercely and realize your greatest gift in life is being their mother – even if they run you ragged.

Three years later, your happy world will be shattered when one of your triplets is diagnosed with cancer. Your heart will break watching Jacob suffer through treatment, but he will amaze you with his courage and fight, always with a smile and he will make you feel brave.

In the end, your son will pass away at six years old. The pain of his loss will be unbearable and you will learn to walk hand in hand with grief for the rest of your life. It is the price of your love. Your family and children will pull you out of the trenches of grief and you will live for Jacob and he will forever be your inspiration. For a while, you will find comfort in raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer research, helping other families facing a similar fight.

Heather Duckworth's sons.  Duckworth family

A year later, having long hoped to adopt, you will fly to Guatemala with your family to meet your baby girl. You will fall instantly in love when they place your daughter in your arms….A gift to your family in so many ways as she helps your heart heal. Her joyful spirit will be a burst of sunshine in your lives.

The years will pass quickly and before you know it, Jacob's sweet, little brothers will be grown men, ready to graduate from high school. You are just so proud of these boys and all that they have overcome. But this season of life will be bittersweet, because even if the world sees them as twins, they will forever be triplets in your heart.

Remember, your life is going to be filled with the greatest joys and the deepest heartaches, but you will survive. That ache in your heart will always be there, Heather, but it will make you stronger. You will hug a little tighter, cry a little easier and smile a little bigger because of it. And you will share Jacob's story, your faith and your grief in hopes of helping others.

Love big and hang onto hope. You can do it!