Friday, March 1, 2019

Celebrating a Life Well Lived

This post is #190 in a series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during and following 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 period 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.

March 1, 2009

Hannah's life was celebrated at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs on this date ten years ago.   We had two goals for the service -- to honor Hannah's life and to point people to Jesus.

I remember stepping into the church building feeling so very raw and exposed.  Even though Hannah's death was not a surprise, it was a shock, and I was very much still reeling from effects of that shock.  Walking down that long aisle to be seated in the front row was an incredibly surreal experience. 

The service began with Hannah's youth pastor, Donnie Burrow, singing an original song he wrote for Hannah. It was beautifully done, and so very special. Our pastor, Manley Beasley, then read the obituary and led in a prayer, followed by the Casting Crowns song "Praise You in the Storm", sung by Danny Baxter, our church's worship pastor.

Bethany and Brad each took a turn speaking in tribute to Hannah, followed by the Chris Tomlin song "I Will Rise", sung by our dear friend (and Hannah's ophthalmologist), Tommy Moseley.  I loved that he sang the entire song with a big smile on his face, clearly reveling in the fact that because Jesus had overcome and the grave was overwhelmed, Hannah had won the victory!

Our dear neighbor, and semi-retired pastor, Gerald "Tiny" Taylor, brought a message about the peace of God, and the service closed with a slide show of pictures of Hannah, and another prayer by Brother Manley.  The gospel was shared, and the hundreds of people in attendance heard it clearly, some of them perhaps for the first time.

I was so glad that Brad and Bethany each took the opportunity to speak that day.  Bethany was just fourteen years old, and it took a lot of courage for her to stand up before that huge crowd and speak from her heart, but she did it.  She talked about how she was now an only child and the depth of that loss, but she ended by declaring that we really didn't lose Hannah ... we knew exactly where she was.

Our goals for the service were accomplished, and we were pleased.

When the celebration service concluded, we all went to Hannah's high school cafeteria, where a dinner was served by friends from our Sunday School class.  So many members of our extended family had traveled across the country to be with us for this special day, and it was wonderful to have this opportunity to visit with them.

Hannah's obituary ...

Hannah Joy Sullivan

Hannah Joy Sullivan, age 17, entered Heaven on February
26, 2009, after a year-long battle with brain cancer. She was
born on October 22, 1991, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Brad and
Jill Sullivan. She attended Magnet Cove High School, where she
was junior class president and an honor student. She was a
member of Hot Springs Baptist Church, where she was an active
member of the youth group. She battled her cancer with grace
and strength, never complaining, and accepted her “storm” as an
opportunity to be a witness for Christ. We know that now, in
Heaven, she is more alive than ever before. 

Her family would like
to thank the staff of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital
Hematology/Oncology Clinic and the staff of St. Joseph’s Mercy
Clinic on Airport Road in Hot Springs for the wonderful care they
provided to Hannah over the past year.

Hannah is survived by her sister, Bethany; her parents, Brad
and Jill Sullivan; her grandparents, Charles and Nina Sullivan of
Van Buren, Arkansas, and Tom and Betty Persenaire of Mountain
Home, Arkansas; and a host of loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and

Visitation will be Saturday, February 28, from 6:00 to 8:00
p.m. at Hot Springs Baptist Church; and a celebration of her life
will be held on Sunday, March 1, at 2:00 p.m. at First Baptist
Church of Hot Springs. There will be a private family burial on
Monday, March 2, at Mount Zion Cemetery in Briggsville,

Arrangements are by Hot Springs Funeral Home.

I'd also like to share a poem which was included in the funeral program that day.  It was written by our school nurse, and it really captures our Hannah ...

Hannah, Beautiful Hannah

Hannah, beautiful Hannah,
with your big, bright smile
We know at first glance
You know who holds tomorrow
and who holds your hand.

The way you carry yourself
and respond to others 
shows us
You know who holds tomorrow 
and who holds your hand.

The way you lift others up
even in your hour of need 
shows us
You know who holds tomorrow
and who holds your hand.

Your reaction to all you have been through
at such a young age 
shows us
You know who holds tomorrow
and who holds your hand.

Your love for the Lord
and your confidence in His promises 
shows us
You know who holds tomorrow
and who holds your hand.

None of us know about tomorrow,
but if we know the Lord 
as our personal Savior as Hannah did
We can all know with confidence
Who holds tomorrow
and who holds our hand.

~Shawn GoodKnight, 2009

1 comment:

Joan Mann said...

You have such a beautiful way of writing Jill and I wish I could have known your Hannah. I have missed some of your blogs and someday hope I have time to read the whole story. So very well done by a Mom who loved her daughter very much!