Utah woman’s message in a bottle turns up in Guam years later

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SALT LAKE CITY -- There are likely a lot of things most would say if they could write a letter to their future selves, and at 27 years old, Brittanie Penrose has a chance to read them.

Three years ago, Penrose and her friend, Aaron Lanari, put two messages in a bottle and tossed it off a pier in California. At the time, she was suffering from brain cancer while Lanari was recovering from his second liver transplant. Penrose lives in Salt Lake City, and Lanari lives in California.

“I wrote more about what I was going through and about myself,” Penrose said.

They never thought about the letters again, until a group of students found the bottle, thousands of miles away, along the shores of Guam.

“We thought maybe someone would find it and throw it away, or something like that,” Penrose said. “We never expected a school in Guam, no less, would find it.”

A class at George Washington High School in Guam was cleaning the beach when they found the bottle. Rather than just toss it aside or open it there, they decided to hold a special ceremony to reveal what it contained.

“I was shocked,” Penrose said. “We just chucked it out into the ocean; here we are three years later.”

While the handwriting on the pages had somewhat washed away, the messages they had sent remained intact.

“I was just going to live life to the fullest, no matter if I lived or died,” Penrose said.

Lanari said they were facing some tough things back then.

“I didn't like the way I looked, and I didn't like the way I felt,” Lanari said. “I wasn’t the person I was before, so I had to kind of relearn who I was.”

It took Lanari a few years to feel like himself again, but even with such a bleak prognosis, the pair maintained a bright outlook on life in their letters.

Lanari’s read, “I hope that whoever finds this is able to reach out and grab life and get everything they have ever wanted.”

Today, their messages still resonate, especially with Penrose, who is now in remission.

“I did put that I had high hopes that everything would be alright,” Penrose said. “And I felt in my heart that everything would be alright. And so far, it is alright.”

For her, the letter now stands as a reminder of not only where she was three years ago, but how far she has come since.