Very quietly, almost unnoticed, American Idol began its new season tonight. Over the past several years, the beginning of American Idol was a highly anticipated event in our home. You cannot imagine what a big deal it was around here. Hannah became a fan of the show in its second season...during the big face-off between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. She liked Ruben that year, and was thrilled when he won. The next year, she supported Diana DeGarmo, spending two hours voting for her after each show. Carrie Underwood was her favorite the next year, followed by Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and David Cook. She was pretty good at picking the winners, and it was probably her relentless voting that put most of them over the top! We would arrange our whole schedule around Tuesday and Wednesday evenings...thank goodness for the DVR we got a few years ago! She and I attended four American Idol concerts together, and I have some wonderful memories associated with Hannah and American Idol.
I also have some rather difficult memories associated with Hannah and American Idol. I remember watching the show together in the hospital, just a few days after her brain surgery. It was hard for her to watch, because the surgery had left her unable to look up with her eyes without moving her head, and of course, the TV was mounted up high on the wall. After we returned home, we watched that season together with particular interest in David Cook, whose brother was also battling brain cancer. I remember cringing as they talked about how seriously ill he was, wondering what was going through her mind as she listened. We watched the David vs. David finale that year, and Hannah cheered as David Cook was declared the winner.
Hannah was a huge fan of Carrie Underwood, and when I heard she was coming to Little Rock in May, I immediately went on line and bought three tickets for the concert (Brad never has gotten into the whole American Idol thing). The concert was scheduled for just after Hannah's radiation was completed, and we thought it would be a fun way to celebrate getting that part of treatment behind us. But just a few days before the concert, Hannah really began to feel bad...very weak and extremely tired. The day of the concert came, and she could hardly even get out of the recliner. So, we did not go...Bethany and I just couldn't go without her. We found out on the following Monday that Hannah's blood counts were extremely low and she needed blood and platelet transfusions. That was the first time we had experienced this...up until that time, her blood counts had all been fine, so we didn't recognize the symptoms of severe anemia. That was the first of over 100 blood product transfusions.
Last January, when American Idol began, Hannah was excited about it, as always. Our least favorite part of the show is the auditions, but we still watched them and got a kick out of all the people who thought they could sing, but couldn't. But it was about this time last year that Hannah first began to show signs of slipping cognitively. After the first couple of shows, Hannah had difficulty remembering who she had seen the week before, and although she knew there was someone from Arkansas who had done well in the auditions, she kept getting confused about who it was. By the time they got to the Hollywood rounds, she still wanted to watch the show, but she could not follow it at all, and did not know who Kris Allen was. And I believe she knew, deep down, that she would not see the finale.
On the Sunday before Hannah went to Heaven on Thursday, she received a phone call in her hospice room from her all-time American Idol favorite, Jordin Sparks. Although Hannah was unable to talk back to her, Jordin spoke to her and to all of us on speakerphone, and even sang "No Air" to her. Jordin was incredibly gracious and kind, and so upbeat and bubbly, although I'm sure it was a difficult thing for her to do--she was not much older than Hannah herself. It was a bittersweet moment...something Hannah would have been so excited about...but I'm not even sure if she really knew who was talking to her. After her death, we watched the rest of the season rather half-heartedly until Kris Allen from Arkansas became one of the finalists. We got behind him and helped vote him to victory. Brad even joined in on the voting! Hannah would have enjoyed seeing the Arkansas boy win.
If you're not an American Idol fan, and you've managed to read this far into this post, I'm surprised you've stuck with it. I'm sure you have no idea (and probably very little interest) who any of these people even are. And I guess that's my point. As big a deal as American Idol has been in our household over the past eight years or so, it's so irrelevant in the big picture, as is most of what we spend our time and energy doing. Only what is done for the Kingdom of God is of eternal value. Fame is fleeting, fortune is quickly wasted, and health is easily lost, but God's Word will stand forever. Let's spend our time and energy on things of significance.
Will we watch American Idol this year? Probably. We DVR'd tonight's episode, but haven't watched it yet. There have been some changes in the show's direction that don't really excite me. It's certainly not the same watching it without Hannah. And I'm a different person than I was when I first started watching it with her. Older, wiser, sadder...but better because of what the Lord has taught me through my own daughter. He continues to teach, and I pray that I will continue to learn. I am determined that I will not waste Hannah's storm.