Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hannah's First Birthday in Heaven

Eighteen years ago today, Brad and I excitedly welcomed our first baby, Hannah Joy...weighing in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and measuring a whopping 22 inches long. We were thrilled beyond words to have been entrusted with such an amazing little life. Her middle name was well-suited for her, because she brought us nothing but joy for 17 1/2 years.

Today, we took a day to celebrate and remember her life. Bethany and I stayed home from work and school today, and Brad worked until 12:30. Even though it was pouring rain, we had decided to go visit Hannah's grave this afternoon (about a 3 hour round trip for us). Brad came home from work with a basket of pink rose petals from the senior class, along with a note signed by all of Hannah's classmates. How perfect was that? I had wanted to put something on Hannah's grave, but just couldn't bring myself to go out and buy some plastic flowers. Rose petals were just right for today...Bethany sprinkled them all over the grave and headstone.

Our nickname for Hannah was "My Joy"...for example, we might say "Hannah My Joy, it's time to get up" or "Hannah My Joy, you need to do your homework." So, when it came time to decide what to put on the headstone, that was the obvious choice. Along the bottom, it says "We will praise God in the storm because He is good all the time."

Hannah's Aunt Maria made this beautiful cross of fall flowers and placed it here a couple of weeks ago.
I do need to be honest and admit that I have a very strained relationship with Hannah's grave. I don't normally like to spend time there. There's something about seeing your child's name in granite that brings you back to cold, hard reality. And although I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Hannah herself is not there, and that it is just her earthly shell there below the ground, it is extraordinarily difficult for me to be that close to her body and not be able to be with her. Her body was just a vessel...I know that...but I loved that vessel. I cared for that physical body, when she was a newborn and unable to do anything for herself, and then again, as the cancer stole her ability to care for herself. I know that many people are comforted by spending time at the graveside of their loved ones, but I am not one of them. Having said that, though, it was the right place for us to be today. I think it was good for all of us.

We ended the day by going out for a nice dinner, then came home and watched a home video of Hannah's 14th birthday in 2005. That was the most recent video we had...our video camera quit shortly after that (we still had one of those great big ones that sit on your shoulder, much to the girls' chagrin when we used it in public!) and we had never replaced it. It was the first time we had heard her voice since February...and the last couple months of her life, the sound of her voice had changed due to the cancer. We also got to hear her laugh...another wonderful sound. I had made a Mississippi Mud Cake this morning (Hannah's favorite) and we ate that tonight while we watched the videos.

As much as we miss her, we know that this was God's plan for her life...and for ours. She was living with a physical body that was hopelessly flawed, as we all are. I have used this quote in a previous post, but I love it. At the end of C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle it says, "They were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." We often refer to our recent journey as "Hannah's story", but her real story began when she entered Heaven. We rest in the knowledge that today was the best birthday Hannah has ever had!


Anonymous said...

I had the amazing opportunity to meet Hannah & i did not know her extremely well, however i do know that she was a AMAZING girl & had a very sweet heart. I also got to hear Mr Sullivan speak at the D-Now weekend at Hot Springs Baptist & was at Fields of Faith to hear Bethany speak as well. She did an awesome job and brought tears to my eyes. Hannah while she was here on earth, as well as now that she is in a much happier place has had a MAJOR impact on my life, as has your entire family. I cant even see a picture of Hannah without tearing up, shes beautiful. I cant even imagine how hard all this must have been for all of you, it's all part of a bigger picture. My heart goes out for your family & you are still in my prayers.

Caina Cowart

Anonymous said...

That was a beautiful tribute to Hannah, Jill.

Thank you for posting this. We love you all...


Anonymous said...

Jill, the pink rose pedals are perfect. Love you all. Mom-in-law

Sherri Smith said...

Even though I know it had to be a very painful day, reading about how you all spent your day was such a sweet outpouring of love for Hannah with every moment. What a beautiful tribute to her. God bless you all!

Anonymous said...


Your family is beautiful. Your caringbridge comments are cherished. I have been thinking about you guys lately, as I had written Hannah's bday in my calendar. I knew you'd need a few extra prayers as you experienced this birthday. May God continually and richly bless you and your family.

Lisa McKim

Melissa McCone said...

I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is to visit Hannah's grave. I know how hard it is for me to visit my bestfriends grave, but being the mother of that child, I can't even imagine. Your family is amazing! Happy Birthday Hannah!!

Paula Roberts said...

I have the same sort of relationship with Matt's grave. We went to pick out the headstone a month or so back and that was so has been so wet here they haven't been able to put it in yet, but they will soon and I will post pics on are all still in our prayers through this holiday season.