Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Bittersweet Visit to our Alma Mater

From the time our firstborn daughter Hannah started kindergarten, she knew where she wanted to go to college.  (She was a serious-minded student from the very beginning.)  She had a little "Future Tiger" t-shirt that she wore with great pride, and if you asked her, she would tell you she was going to Ouachita.  In fact, she would tell you even if you didn't ask.

Over the years, she never wavered.  By the time she was a sophomore in high school, she already had her roommate chosen and was looking forward to heading off to OBU in just a couple of years.

All of that changed when she was diagnosed with brain cancer in the spring of her sophomore year.  Instead of graduating from high school in 2010 and heading off to college, she graduated early in 2009 and was promoted straight to Heaven.  And as nice as the new dorms are at Ouachita, there's no comparison to the digs she has now.

Maybe she had such an affinity for Ouachita because she always heard Mom and Dad speak of it with such fondness.  We met there and graduated from there back in the late '80's.  We were excited that our oldest daughter had dreams of attending there ... and looked forward to visiting her in the dorm, hearing her stories of run-throughs, functions, and late-night serenades, seeing her perform in Tiger Tunes, and attending her graduation one day.

We made a trip to Ouachita this week, but it wasn't to do any of these things ... It was to speak to a class called "Death and Dying."  The professor knew our story and was familiar with the While We're Waiting ministry, and invited us to speak to his class.  We readily agreed when we were asked, and have been looking forward to it.

The irony was not lost on us; however, as we drove onto campus.  We weren't coming to visit Hannah, we weren't coming to watch her in Tiger Tunes, we weren't coming to her graduation.  We were coming to talk to a class of students (just a little bit younger than she would be now) about her death.

Ehhh.

A lot of things have changed on Ouachita's campus since we were students there, but in Berry Bible Building, it was as though time had stood still over the last thirty years.  Other than some updated technology in the classrooms, everything looked exactly the same.

And other than the ubiquitous technology in their hands, the students of Ouachita are still the same.

This group of young adults was bright, kind, and compassionate.  It was a small class, and they listened attentively as we shared Hannah's story and talked about how her death has impacted our family.  They asked a number of insightful questions and even shared some tears with us.  We had the opportunity to share with them how God can bring beauty from ashes and redeem even our greatest losses when we lay them at His feet.  As we talked to them about While We're Waiting, I hope they saw a visual representation of how God can use our greatest pain to lead us to our greatest area of ministry.

Do I wish we had been at Ouachita this week for a different reason than to speak about Hannah's death?

A hundred times YES!

Am I grateful that God continues to use Hannah's story to touch lives?

Oh, yes.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jill for sharing Hannah's story over & over! You won't know until you get to heaven how many lives have been touched!
Truly is beauty from ashes!!
Asking God to bless you this morning, and the ministry!! 🙏🏻

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you so much for your kind words and your prayers! They are greatly appreciated!! ~Jill

Mary Nickels said...

Oh this gets me... The things we MUST do rather than the things we WANT to do or what SHOULD have been... What an amazing girl, your Hannah. And incredible, continued courage you possess in sharing her story. I struggle with the continuation of the events we've started for Childhood Cancer in my daughter's memory. I don't want to stop doing them, but they come with such a heavy price of sadness, fear and anxiety. It always works out in the end, but going into them, I just wish to disappear at times... Thank you for sharing Hannah with us.

Jill Sullivan said...

I understand what you mean, Mary ... As wonderful as it is to have the opportunity to carry on the legacy of our children, it does come with a price. Praying for you this afternoon as you miss your sweet girl ... <3