Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday -- Six Years in Heaven

Thanks to the absolutely beautiful snowfall we had yesterday, I've been able to enjoy a quiet day at home, remembering our girl who went to Heaven six years ago today.  It was a great opportunity to reflect, remember, and revel in the wonderful memories we have with our Hannah Joy.

My overwhelming feeling today at this six year mark is gratitude.  Gratitude that God chose me to be Hannah's mother; gratitude that we had 17 1/2 amazing years with her; gratitude that she is perfectly healed in Heaven today.

I spent the day posting my favorite photos from Hannah's life on my Facebook page.  I tried to post them at regular intervals throughout the day so I wouldn't totally gum up people's newsfeeds with them.  How fun it was to share these pictures and re-live some of my favorite memories with our girl.
As I shared these pictures, though, I found myself keenly aware of the moms and dads who did not have the blessing of so much time with their children.  Through While We're Waiting, we've had the opportunity to meet many parents who never had the opportunity to make the kind of memories we have with Hannah, and my heart breaks for them.  We were so blessed to have the time we had with Hannah.

As I thought about Hannah and all those we've met whose children have left "too soon", I remembered a book that Hannah "wrote" back when she was in junior high.  This was a project of her GT class, and is an autobiography, complete with photographs.

She drew the cover picture, which is a bell (her grandma always called her "Hannah Bell").  Clearly, she got her artistic ability from me!  ;-)  I love the words she uses to describe herself ..."joyful", "optimistic", "sweet", "Christian", "caring". She couldn't have been more correct in her choice of words.  The first page put a lump in my throat: "Dedicated to My Amazing Family". She begins with a chapter called "Before Me", in which she states that we were so ecstatic when she was born that we gave her the middle name "Joy", which is true! That chapter is followed by a chapter for each year of her life. It was so much fun reading all of these chapters, and looking at all the photographs she included. The one that really got to me though was the final chapter, which was titled "My Future Possibilities", and reads as follows:

"As I think about the future, I get so excited because I know my future is bright. I love to think about what is to come, and I do constantly. I plan to graduate high school with a 4.0 and at the top of my class. Then, I would like to enroll in Ouachita Baptist University with a full or almost full paid scholarship, and study elementary education to become an elementary teacher. I'd graduate with a bachelor's degree from OBU, and then go somewhere for my master's degree in teaching. I would hope to be married by the time I graduated college, so I would settle down in a small town in Arkansas and start a family (and teach). When I'm old enough to retire, I will probably move closer to where my grandkids live so I could be close to them and watch them grow up. I want to live a long, happy, healthy and content life that I can look back on someday and be proud of. And maybe someday I'll read this book and I'll think, "Wow, I did just that!""

The first time I read this paragraph after Hannah's death, especially the last part, it felt like a punch in the stomach. It literally left me almost breathless for a few minutes. How can someone so excited and full of plans for the future just be gone? How can her innocent desire for a long and healthy life be so unfulfilled?

And God had to gently remind me of something I already know. As we talk to grieving parents, one of the things we talk about is God's sovereignty...the fact that He is in control in and through every situation. As Hannah's illness progressed and it became apparent that, without a miracle, she would be leaving us for Heaven, we felt that we were being called to submit to His will for her life and for ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you,...plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Hannah's future was in His hands...she had her own plans, we had our plans for her...but God had a better plan. What seemed to be a calamity to us was the best thing that ever happened to her!

I found this quote the other day:

Death is God's way of saying, "Your table is ready."  Hannah's table was ready at the age of 17.

Barbara Johnson in "Pack Up Your Gloomees in a Great Big Box, Then Sit on the Lid and Laugh" says this: "There is a finality to death that is inescapable. You can't go around it, over it, or through it. All you can do is negotiate--not for a reversal that could bring your loved one back, because there is none. Instead, you plead for some kind of understanding, some way to make sense of it all as you try to get through it, allowing your grief to take its course and let the pain eventually drain away."

We will never completely understand why Hannah's wish for a long and healthy life was unfulfilled on this earth, but she also said that she wanted to be able to look back on her life someday and be proud of it. I think that if she could see the lives that have been touched through her relatively short life (and I think maybe she can in Heaven), she would be proud.

Thank you for sharing in our life, and hers, by reading these posts, and praying for our family all these years.


Judy Moore said...

Love to you and your sweet family.... Always❤️

Joni said...

Beautiful story Jill! She is an amazing girl - just like her Momma! Thank you and Brad for all you do to help others through your While We're Waiting ministry.

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you so much, Judy and Joan! Love you both! <3

Lisa Casserly said...

My heart bleeds for you, for the loss of your beautiful daughter, but I am glad that you can see that God's plan is better. I say that to myself nearly every day. God has a plan, and its a good plan, even if I don't ever understand it. I struggle with this, too. Nearly 2 years ago, my daughter was severely injured in Afghanistan. Its been a long road with her and for her. Can't imagine how much harder to go thru the struggle and then to have God tell her that its time for her to go.

Jill Sullivan said...

Wow, Lisa, it sounds like you and your daughter have been traveling a tough road. Knowing that God has a plan, and a good plan at that, doesn't necessarily make our struggles any easier on a day-to-day basis. Praying for you and your daughter today. <3

Gina Clegg said...

I love and appreciate your heart for the kingdom of God, Jill! Praying for you and Brad!

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you so much, Gina ... Your family is always in my prayers as well! <3

Janet Herbert said...

wow, your Hannah Joy sounds alot like my Lynley Elyse, full of the Lord, a sonshine, loving the Word of God, and excited about Heaven. She was taken in a car accident that took 4 Christian teenagers. Today, march 3rd, is the day she left earth, and our lives have never been the same. I imagine Lynley and Hannah are very close friends now. Thank you for your ministry to us.

Jill Sullivan said...

Yes, Janet ... It does sound like our girls have much in common. I bet they are friends in Heaven ... and one day we will be with them there! Praying for you as you miss your precious Lynley Elyse! <3