Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Mourning -- A Gift of Memories

Would you indulge me for just one more post about Hannah's five-year Heaven Day?

I really just have to share one more thing ... really, just one more.

You know, parents who have lost children (and I suppose anyone who has lost a loved one ... my only real experience with this is losing my daughter) live in dread of these kinds of dates.  I've actually named it ... I call it "The Tyranny of Dates."  You can't get away from them.  Just when you get through one -- your child's birthday, for example -- there's another one on the horizon.  Christmas, Mother's Day, the day she should have graduated from kindergarten or high school, the day he should have been born.  The calendar is relentless ... It never stops!

Now, I did learn pretty early on that the anticipation of the day is usually worse than the day itself.  Knowing that usually helps me in dealing with these days.  And this year, I was a bit distracted from the upcoming date by my dad's very unexpected open heart surgery (5 bypasses!) a week earlier.

I spent several days with my mom and dad as he dealt with numerous complications following his surgery.  Finally, he stabilized, and I was able to return home a couple of days before that dreaded date.

I knew this year was going to be different than any other, because I was going to be all alone.  My husband was in Phoenix, and Bethany was four hours away at the University of Arkansas.  I just really wasn't sure how the day was going to go.

I had decided a few days earlier to start out the day by making a post on Facebook asking people to share their memories of Hannah.  I almost talked myself out of it.  After all, Hannah was only a teenager when she died ... she didn't know that many people.  And besides, she was so quiet, a real homebody, a girl who would rather stay home with her family on Saturday nights than hang out with friends.  Would anybody really have any memories to share?  What if nobody wrote anything?

I decided to go ahead and post it anyway.  I knew that family members would write something, and maybe a few of her friends.  Here's what I wrote:

Five years ago today, our beautiful daughter and sister, Hannah Joy, went to Heaven after bravely battling brain cancer for a year. Would you mind giving our family a gift today? Would you take just a moment and share a memory you have of Hannah with us? We have so many wonderful memories with her, and it would really be a blessing to us to hear some of yours. Thank you so much!

I then went on about my day, most of which you know about if you've read my last few posts.  All through the day, I heard the notification chirps coming in from my phone.  A couple of times, I started to pick it up and look at the posts, but I would immediately tear up and have to put it down.  I had to lead the While We're Waiting support group meeting that evening, and I had to be able to hold myself together.  I knew if I read those posts, I would be done for the day.  So I decided to wait.

We had a great WWW meeting that night, and then I had the wonderful God-surprise of the wind chimes and the rock after I got home.  Once I had somewhat recovered from that awesome moment, I put on my pajama pants, curled up on the couch with some Kleenex, and opened up my laptop.  I was completely unprepared for what I found.

There were 90 comments on my post.

There were memories from relatives, family friends, former teachers, acquaintances, nurses, church leaders, peers, and a large people who had never even met her, but had been somehow touched by her life.  There were remembrances of her smile, her laugh, her "sweet spirit", her servant's heart, and her curly hair.  There were memories of her caring for younger children, bantering with her sister, playing Barbies, eating pizza, letting a friend copy her biology paper, helping in Vacation Bible School, and managing the high school basketball team.  And as much as I hate to rank one comment above the others, this one had to mean the most to me ...

Our daughter, Madelyn, began to ask questions about Jesus, eternal salvation and Heaven during Hannah's courageous battle. Hannah was a light for Christ during her dark days and Madelyn accepted Christ as her Savior on 2-23-09 because of Hannah's testimony. Hannah will always hold a special place in our family's heart! 

Y'all ... It just doesn't get any better than that.  That right there is what it's all about.

Would I have chosen for Hannah to battle cancer for a year and go to Heaven at the age of 17?  No.  Never.  If it were possible, would I turn back time to January 2008 and write a different ending for her story?  You betcha.

Would her life have had the impact it's had if things had been different?  I don't think so.

Is God's master plan better than mine?  Yes (somewhat grudgingly).

I think my role is to be thankful for the countless wonderful memories that I (and apparently many others) have of my girl, and to be grateful that God has chosen to use her in the way He has.

So, thank you, Lord.  And let me say a huge thank you to all of those who gave us the gift of your memories.  You blessed our family more than you could ever know.


Mary Nickels said...

So very glad you wrote this and " indulged" all of us with more acts of beauty and love in the spirit of your precious Hannah. As I approach my Mattie's 3rd Heaven Day on the 19th, you have given me great food for thought as I fumble around with ways to celebrate her life. Such a lovely idea, I think I will attempt the same. And then I too, will hold my breath and close one eye, waiting for responses so that I can relish the memories others have of my forever 17 year old daughter. What a gift indeed. And thank you too, for the term Heaven Day. It's the best name I have seen or heard so far to mark this devastating day. It's so difficult to mark days that have no exising or palatable name. I have seen a few tossed around that don't suit me. Angelversary for one. I have used heavenly birthday myself, but stumble even over that one.

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you for your kind words, Mary. I'm so glad you're going to use this idea to mark your Mattie's Heaven Day. I'm sure we would have so much to share if we could sit down together and visit sometime. I completely agree that there is no "palatable" name for this date ... "Angelversary" definitely does not work for me. But it is our girls' Heaven Day, so that is what I've come to call it. Praying for you as this day approaches .... I pray that it will be filled with unexpected blessings, like mine was!