Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- My Daughter Is A Senior??

As of tonight, when the final graduate of the Magnet Cove High School Class of 2012 walks across the platform to receive his or her diploma, my daughter will officially become a senior.

Why does that make me thoughtful on this Thursday?

Because her older sister never got to be a senior.  And it's really strange to me that Bethany will be surpassing Hannah in this accomplishment.

It was a strange feeling when Bethany reached spring break of her junior year, because Hannah never made it that far.  And I know it will be even stranger when Bethany turns 18 about a year from now, because Hannah never made it past the age of 17.

It just doesn't feel like it should be this way.  My younger child should not be passing up my older child.

But I can't help but feel that Hannah would be okay with it.  She would be proud of the young woman her sister is becoming.  And so even though it feels weird, I'm okay with it, too.  I'm excited for her and for all she has to look forward to in the future.  I'm so glad that God chose me to be her mom!  I am truly blessed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday -- A Thought-Provoking Question

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend, and she asked me a question that has really had me thinking.  We had had a wonderful couple hours of deep, rich conversation, when she posed this question.  She didn't mean for it to be a hard question; in fact, she asked it as if she already knew how I was going to answer.  With sparkling eyes and intensity in her voice, she leaned across the table and said, "Don't you just feel Hannah's presence around you all the time?"

For a split second, I hesitated, then replied, "Yes...Yes, I do."  Because that was the "right" answer.  That's what I was supposed to say.

My friend had to leave the restaurant shortly after that.  We had talked for so long, she was about to be late to pick up her kids from school.  I told her to go on, and I cleaned up our mess.  As I walked out of the restaurant alone, all I could think about was my answer to her question.  I had given her the answer she was expecting, but was it the truth?

Do I feel Hannah's presence all around me?  The truth is no.  No, I don't.  And I don't feel her guiding me or watching over me from Heaven.

And for awhile, that kind of bothered me.  Should I?  Is there something wrong with my grieving process because I don't?  To be honest, I wish I did.  I would love to feel that kind of closeness with her ... to feel surrounded by her presence.

So then, I've wondered why not.  Why don't I feel her presence with me?  Has my grief hardened me to the point where I have become that unfeeling?  Have I just not been paying attention?  Is there something wrong with me?

And after lots of thought, I've come to some conclusions.  Now, these conclusions may evolve, as thoughts and feelings often do as one travels a grief journey.  And my conclusions and experiences may very well differ from those of others.  I've heard others say that they do feel the presence of a departed loved one with them, and who am I to question their experience?  I can only speak for myself and my own experiences.

I was with Hannah when she left her earthly body.  I breathed her final breaths along with her, and I felt her hands and face grow cold.  Her presence left us that day.

II Corinthians 5:8 tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  I believe that as Hannah's absence in that room became a reality, so did her presence with the Lord.

And I've decided that that's why I don't feel her presence with me.  It's because she's with Him.  And seriously, if you were with Him, would you want to hang out with me?

So, no, I don't feel Hannah's presence all around me.  And I'm okay with that.  She has better things to do right now.   And one day, when God's through with me here, I'll get to be with Him too.  And getting to hang out with Hannah for eternity will just make it that much sweeter!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth -- A List of Ten Totally Random Things

Obviously, I've had some difficulty coming up with a topic for this month's "Ten on the Tenth".  So here's a totally random list of ten things that have been on my mind lately...

1.  May is Brain Tumor/Brain Cancer Awareness Month.  Who knew?  Clearly "gray" doesn't get the same amount of press as "pink."  And yet, the number of people affected by brain tumors is staggering.  And many, many of them are children.  In fact, brain tumors are the most commonly occurring solid tumors in children.  The average age at which they appear is six years old.  Six years old!  This month I'm sporting my gray ribbon, promoting brain cancer awareness.

2.  Bethany's track season wrapped up with a second place finish in the high jump at the state track meet. Yes, I know that is very good, but no amount of back slapping could convince Bethany that second place was good enough.  She really wanted to win, and had a good chance, because she actually came into state competition with the highest jump in the state for a female athlete at a 2A school.  She would have been somewhat consoled with a first place finish for her track team, but would you believe they came in second place by only half a point?  Half a point!  Oh well, there's always next year!  Here's a picture of the track team with their second place trophy ... Just try to ignore the first place team celebrating in the background!  Yes, I know I should crop them out, but something about them being in the picture just makes me chuckle.

3.  This time of year always seems to bring out my inner Eeyore.  All the awards banquets, graduation festivities, etc., bring back such difficult memories of what would have been Hannah's senior year.  She loved school so much, and she would have enjoyed every minute of her senior year.  I have to remind myself that she did enjoy every minute of that year ... way more than she would have if she had been stuck at school all day!

4.  I can't believe that it's almost the end of Bethany's junior year.  As of May 24th, when this year's current crop of seniors graduates, she will officially become a senior herself.  As that is something we never experienced with Hannah, it seems somewhat surreal.

5.  Speaking of Bethany, she did not go to school today.  As a reward for performing well on their end-of-course exams the previous year, students are given a free day out of school, which they can use whenever they want.  So she took the day off today.  And on her day off, she didn't go to the mall, or to the lake.  She didn't even sleep in.  Instead, she went to Yell County and fixed up her sister's grave.  Her friend Brad came along, and they laid sod, placed bricks, and planted flowers.  You can't really tell from the picture, but Hannah's grave is on a relatively steep hill.  The brick wall they made will nicely define it.  I really can't tell you what a gift this is to me.  I really want her grave to look pretty, but I just can not bring myself to work on it.  When I am there, it's all I can do just to breathe.  Maybe this will help me feel more comfortable there.

6.  I can't write a post this time of year without mentioning American Idol.  It's been an interesting season.  I really liked Colton because of his unabashed Christian faith ... I loved his performance of "Piano Man", and I hated to see him go.  Joshua is an amazingly talented singer, and his rendition of "When A Man Loves A Woman" was absolutely inspired.  Jessica and Hollie are great, too ... I just prefer male voices over female voices.  I would have to say Phillip is my favorite this year ... I always tend to lean toward the guys who are unique and different.  I've been wondering all season which one would have been Hannah's favorite.  So hard to imagine would she would have been like at age twenty.

7.  Speaking of American Idol, I downloaded Scotty McCreery's new album the other day.  It's good ... really good.

8.  You must pre-order this book on Amazon, or you can wait until May 22nd, when it will be available everywhere.  It is the story of Navy Seal Adam Brown, the son of our dear friends and "While We're Waiting" ministry partners, Larry and Janice Brown.  The Browns are already being sought for radio and television interviews in advance of the book release, and rightfully so.  This is actually why we do not have any While We're Waiting events scheduled until late summer/early fall.

9.  Just like Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall the other day.  And yes, I actually fell off of a wall!  We have an ivy-covered stone wall that lines the edge of our driveway, and I decided to weed that patch of ivy early last week.  I was probably about six feet off the ground when I lost my footing and crashed onto the black asphalt driveway below.  It was one of those falls that seems to happen in slow motion.  I knew I was falling, I knew there was no way to catch myself, and I literally felt each part of my body as it hit the asphalt.  My right knee, my left hip, my left elbow, and the back of my right wrist.  Don't ask me how I landed on the back of my wrist ... I can't really explain that one!  No serious injuries, just some bruises and a couple of very deep scrapes.  You know, it's been a long time since I've been scraped up like that, and wow, does it hurt!  It's been almost two weeks now, and I'm just now getting close to being able to bend and straighten my left elbow without pain.  The worst part has been everyone asking me what happened.  "I pulled a Humpty Dumpty" just doesn't satisfy most people's curiosity.

10.  School is almost out!  May 24th is coming up very quickly, and frankly, it just can't get here quickly enough for me.  After last year's snow-day-shortened summer, this summer is going to feel luxuriously long.  Sooooo looking forward to it!

So there you have it ... ten totally random things that have been rolling around in my mind over the last several weeks.  Hopefully you enjoyed the ride!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Another Childhood Friend

After Hannah went to Heaven in February of 2009, we decided to establish a scholarship at our alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, in her memory.  My husband and I both graduated from there, and from the time she was a preschooler, it was always Hannah's dream to go there.  She already knew who she was going to room with, and she knew she wanted to major in medicine or education.

I remember when we met with the development officer from OBU to discuss the establishment of the scholarship.  Hannah had only been gone for a couple of months, and I was feeling very raw and fragile.  I couldn't believe we were talking to this guy about setting up a scholarship in her memory, rather than talking to an admissions counselor about what kind of scholarship she might be receiving.  But, after an hour or so of discussion, we came up with some guidelines for who would be eligible to receive the scholarship.

It could be a male or female student who is a rising junior or senior (to insure that they were serious about college and going to finish), and who is majoring in the field of medicine or education.  We understood that we would have no say in who would receive the scholarship ... the recipient would be chosen by a scholarship committee at OBU.

We've been very pleased with each student that the committee has chosen over the past three years.  We've had the opportunity to meet each of the recipients and it's been more of a blessing than I would ever have imagined.  Each of these young ladies has been a fine Christian young woman who is definitely going to be used by God in her chosen field.

But the last time I sent in our check, I just couldn't help making a suggestion to the scholarship committee.  I included a letter, saying that even though I knew we had no say in who received the scholarship, I did want to put forth a name for the committee's consideration.  I pointed out that this student was a rising junior, and that she was a speech pathology major, which put her into both the medicine and education categories.  As I closed my letter, I reiterated that we were not attempting to influence the committee's decision in any way, we were simply asking them to consider one particular student along with any others who were being considered.

That student was Brittany Nolan, who has been Hannah's dearest friend since second grade.  Brittany is the girl who would have been Hannah's roommate at OBU if Hannah had not "graduated early."  They met when we moved to El Dorado, and remained close friends even after we moved to Cabot and then Magnet Cove.  In this day of texting and email, they actually wrote letters to each other, and when I cleaned out Hannah's bedside table, it was full of letters from Brittany.  They have always had a very special friendship, and our family's friendship with her has continued over the last few years.  This picture was probably from about second or third grade...

And this was probably the summer after their freshman year of high school...

Well, last week we got the word that Brittany had indeed been chosen as the recipient of the Hannah Joy Sullivan Memorial Scholarship.  Brad had the great joy of presenting it to her at the OBU scholarship banquet last Thursday evening (I was speaking at a ladies' ministry dinner, so was unable to attend, which also explains why there was no picture taken of the presentation!).  It was a complete surprise for her, so that made it even more fun.  We are so pleased that she was chosen, and I know Hannah would have been thrilled.  And, though it's bittersweet in many ways, I'm so glad that our friendship with her has continued even though Hannah's earthly life has ended.  We are blessed to have her as part of our lives!