Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dear Hannah Joy...

Dear Hannah My Joy,

Whew!  We've made it through another birthday without you here.  This year, we've been so incredibly busy, I honestly didn't have time to really think much about your upcoming birthday until the night before.  It's not like it used to be, you know, when I thought about it for weeks in advance ... planning a party, inviting your friends, choosing just the right gifts that I knew you'd love ... I haven't shopped for your birthday for three years now.  And I can't help but remember your 17th birthday.  The doctor had already told us that there was a less than five percent chance you'd ever see your 18th birthday.  How unreal it was to buy birthday gifts for you that year, knowing what the doctor had said, while still praying for a miracle!

We spent the day yesterday doing things we knew you would enjoy.  I made your all-time favorite birthday cake -- Mississippi Mud -- and we had tacos, cheese dip, and cake while we watched the Razorbacks beat Ole Miss.  I know you remember Houston Nutt ... he's coaching for Ole Miss now, and the Hogs coach is Bobby Petrino.  I think you'd really enjoy watching the Razorbacks this year.  They're ranked 9th in the nation, and their quarterback is pretty cute!  :)

When the Hogs finally put the game away in the fourth quarter, we headed to Briggsville.  We were so happy to have Brittany come along with us this year.  You'd be so proud of Brittany.  She is a sophomore at Ouachita now, and is a speech pathology major.  She pledged Tri Chi last spring, and was in Tiger Tunes this year.  She really misses you, though, and I know she wishes you were her roommate, like you two had always planned.  Anyway, she had never been to Briggsville before, so after we spent some time at your grave, we took a four-wheeler ride and gave her a tour of the whole place.  We took her by all the deer stands, and down to the Rock Hole.  It was really a pretty evening for late October, but the gnats were terrible!  We figured out pretty quick that we didn't need to try to talk to each other while we were riding, if you know what I mean!

Last night I read over the letter I wrote to you last year on your birthday.  So much has happened since then!  Let me get you caught up just a little bit....

Remember last year, when I told you that you'd have to look up to Bethany now...that she was 5'10" tall?  Well, she is now an even six feet, and still growing.  Who would've thought it when she was such a little thing for so long?  Comes in handy for basketball and track, though!  They should have a great basketball season this year.  I know you'd love watching her play!  She has her driver's license now, and we got her a cute little 2006 Honda Civic that she drives all over the place.  She got her letter jacket and ordered her class ring a few weeks ago.  I'll never forget the day you got your letter jacket and ordered your class ring ... that was the same day we found out your cancer had returned with a vengeance.  I have to say it's been a little weird going through all the "junior in high school" experiences with her, when your junior year of high school was so out of the ordinary.  You'd be very proud of Bethany.  She's had to grow up fast, and she misses you terribly.  There are times that a girl just needs her sister to talk to -- Mom just won't do.  She's really had to learn to depend on the Lord. 

Dad and I have become very close to Larry and Janice Brown, who lost their son, Adam, in Afghanistan about a year after you went to Heaven.  I imagine you and Adam have already become acquainted.  I bet he's a great guy....I'm really looking forward to meeting him someday myself.  Anyway, we believe God has put us together with the Browns for a reason.  We have started hosting weekend retreats for bereaved parents, and we call them "While We're Waiting" Weekends.  We've had a couples' retreat, a dads' retreat, and two special moms' days.  We absolutely love hosting these events, where we parents have an opportunity to share about our children, discuss our common experiences and emotions, and talk about how we're going to live for the Lord while we're waiting to be reunited with you all. 

We also spend a lot of time just visiting with parents who have lost children, whether they come to retreats or not...we just really enjoy talking to other moms and dads who have experienced what we have.  I always feel like when we meet bereaved parents here on earth, that you meet their children in Heaven.  I don't know if that's true or not, but I like to imagine that it is.  And if it is true, then just in the past year you've met Zane, Leightyn, Timothy, Lily, Laurren, Robert, Zach, Kaitlyn, Matt, Michael, Ann, Vicki, Joel, Hudson, Glendon, Charly, Eric, Trina, Lauren, Morgan, Maddie, Jill, Hope, Gabriel, Lilly, Micah, David, Levi, Lydia, Annabella, and Vincent.  Every one of these young lives is precious, and deeply missed by those of us still here on earth.

Back to yesterday...Of course, we miss you every day, but we REALLY missed you yesterday.  Visiting your grave is NOT how we would have chosen to celebrate your twentieth birthday.  As beautiful as your gravesite is, it is an extremely poor substitute for your physical presence.  I still find very little peace at that rocky mound.

But I know that you are not there...and for that I am so thankful!  How could I ever walk away from that spot if I didn't have that assurance?  And in spite of the grief that still dogs my every step and colors my every thought, I know that there are good things yet to come in this life ... things to look forward to and enjoy ... joys to experience and life to live ... all while looking ahead to the day when the waiting will be over and we'll be together for eternity.  Can't wait for that day, sweetheart!

I Love You,


Jen said...

I just have to say that I love the idea of Hannah snuggling with Lydia. I really hope that's happening up there :) So thankful for you, Jill and so blessed by your words.

A Mother's Love said...

Happy birthday Hannah! I never got to meet you but still have a special place in my heart for you.

One day we will meet!!


Cathie said...

Beautifully expressed...

Angie said...

Wow, so beautiful, Jill!