This post is #84 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
So I started this year-long series with every intention of writing some kind of post every day ... and I did really well for 71 days straight. And then, well, you know how it is. And that's okay. I hope to get back on to a little more regular schedule in the weeks ahead, although I'm pretty sure it won't be daily, ha! We'll see how it goes!
Ten years ago today, Hannah took her ACT test. She had just returned from her G and G Camp week, and was pretty worn out, but she was adamant about taking that test. She had just completed her sophomore year of high school, and planned to take it several times over the next couple of years, hopefully increasing her score each time so she could get lots of college scholarships. She didn't feel well that day, and she still struggled with the "falling out of her chair" sensation she'd had ever since completing her radiation treatments, but she did it! I don't even remember the exact score she got ... only that she wasn't pleased with it, and felt she should have done better. At that time, we couldn't know that Hannah's ACT score was not going to matter. We were operating under the assumption that she would complete her treatments over the next year and start college in the fall of 2010.
When Hannah was but a preschooler, she decided she wanted to follow in her parents' footsteps and go to Ouachita Baptist University. She proudly wore her "Future Tiger" t-shirt and proclaimed to anyone who would listen that she was going to go to Ouachita when she grew up. As she got older, she never wavered in her decision, even making plans to room with her good friend, Brittany. Brad and I excitedly looked forward to going to visit her in the dorm (especially since it's only a 40 minute drive down the interstate) and to attending all of her OBU events as proud alumni parents. I was even going to prominently display one of those "My Daughter Goes to OBU" bumper stickers! When she died in the spring of her junior year of high school, all that changed.
We still have the opportunity to visit the beautiful campus at Ouachita from time to time, but it's not to visit Hannah or to cheer her on in Tiger Tunes. For a few years after her death, we had the privilege of awarding the Hannah Joy Sullivan Memorial Scholarship to a rising junior or senior studying in the educational or medical field (two areas in which she had an interest). We had the opportunity to speak to a "Death and Dying" class last spring, and we've been to a few Tiger Tunes presentations.
After one of those scholarship-awarding visits a few years ago Brad and I spent some time walking around the campus in the evening. The weather was unseasonably warm, and I've always loved Ouachita's campus at night. Many things have changed since we were students there years ago, but a lot of things have remained the same, and I'm glad about that.
But, as we walked, I couldn't help but be sad about why we were there at all. This was not the way it was supposed to be. I should be like all my Facebook friends ... going to visit my daughter at college for a special occasion, excitedly anticipating her coming home for the holidays or the summer, mailing her homemade treats to help her get through finals week. How did my life turn out like this ... where instead of receiving hugs from my college-age daughter, I was receiving recognition for giving a scholarship that I would much rather not have a reason to give at all?
It was at times like that I had to remind myself that Hannah was not missing a thing by not being a student at OBU. As nice as their new dorms seemed to be, they sure couldn't compare with a mansion in Heaven! I was the one who felt robbed and cheated by the fact that we missed out on these times with her, and I have to remember that in the eternal scheme of things, I really didn't miss anything either. What's a 3-month visit home for the summer compared to an eternity together in Heaven? There's no comparison!
The sting is still there ... especially as Hannah's friends are now college graduates, starting careers, getting married, and having babies. She is missed every day ... but she's not missing a thing!