After my mom’s passing, Hannah and the rest of us picked up the pieces and began to move forward. My mom was such a spiritual giant in our family. My earliest memories of my mom are of her reading the Bible at the dining room table and underlining and highlighting parts of it. The earliest photograph I have of my mother and I together, other than her holding me as an infant, is of the two of us kneeling beside my bed in prayer.
Hannah cried a lot over losing her grandmother, Nana. She wondered why I didn’t cry more. Perhaps I was numb and in shock. Perhaps I saw that distant cloud that had been pushed away a couple of years ago making its return.
Hannah was not afraid to die. She even said at times that she would like to go and be with my mom. She still enjoyed playing music, cooking for our friends, and spending time with her family and her beloved dogs—Chai and Nutmeg. She still looked forward to the festivals and other trips. However, her health began to decline.
Hannah’s labs became a bit more erratic by the time she had turned 17. We did what we could at home, but Hannah was getting to the point that she began to refuse some of the extra care with specialists. Looking back, I do not believe that it would have changed anything; however, at the time, it was a source of stress. When you have a 17-year-old with the experiences Hannah had, it is difficult to force care that has little chance of making a difference. She understood what was at stake. We continued with the daily care and the parental feeds. We continued with extra IV fluid support. We even had quite a few blood transfusions for a period of time. She knew that once she turned 18, that it was 100% her decision anyway.
Hannah didn’t want to quit living. She prayed for healing. Once she did turn 18, she had one more hospital admission and blood transfusion. There were several specialists that came to her room one day including a blood doctor and a GI doctor. They were pushy and began telling Hannah what she needed to do and what they were going to do. After they left the room, she looked at me and said, we are leaving. I am finished with all of this. She checked herself out, which was now her legal right. We went home. Not long after that she told me that if she needed another blood transfusion that she would not do it. With a lump in my throat, I said to her, “Hannah, I understand. Forgive me if I try to talk you into it, but I understand.”
About a month later, in March, my entire family went to a nice restaurant in our town for my dad’s birthday. Hannah loved this place. They have the best steaks on the planet. During the meal, she excused herself. When she returned, she whispered to me that she was bleeding. I knew what this meant. I couldn’t enjoy another bite.
That evening I had a talk with her and said, Hannah, I want you to get medical care for this, but if you refuse, we need to call Hospice, because you know what this will mean. She knew and made it very clear that this was her choice.
Hannah was not just dealing with GI issues. She had bladder issues. She had liver and spleen issues. She had been fighting a rare candida strain for several months and we had run out of effective medications to treat it. It had reached her bloodstream and her lungs. Hannah was tired of the fight and ready to go.
She was under Hospice care in our home for about two months. The nurses were wonderful. For the first several weeks, Hannah was strong enough to enjoy food and even to cook. We moved a table into a dining area near the kitchen. Multiple nights we played board games. There were a lot of evenings in which Hannah cooked something special for us. Friends began bringing meals to our home. We had sit-down dinners most evenings for several weeks. One night, probably the last of the nights at that table, Hannah raided her snack and candy supply and created a wonderful spread of finger foods and snacks. There is still a bag of leftover Skittles sitting on the center of the table. Neither Kellie nor I have the heart to move it.
Not long after that night, as Hannah’s pain meds were strengthened, we moved upstairs. The last few weeks consisted of lots of prayer time, stories and memories shared, and lots of rest. Hannah kept having Bible verses and worship music streaming on the TV in our bedroom. She was trusting in her Lord Jesus to take her into His presence.
We then moved to her bedroom for the last couple of weeks. The Scriptures and music continued. I played a lot of acoustic classical guitar as well as acoustic hymns by her bedside.
Hannah’s mind began to fail her somewhat, but she was so sweet and gracious during this time--like when she asked us to get George. He was a little rescue Beagle that we had adopted about a year before. Hannah loved George, but fussed at him a lot. He made her nervous. He was on old dog that would walk around her and trip her. That night she just loved on George. Of course, she always had her constant companions, Nutmeg and Chai.
She had special moments with family members who came to see her. Visitation was somewhat limited because the Covid 19 virus was just beginning to spread in our area. We knew that many of our friends were hurting for us and lifting us up in prayer.
On the evening of May 28th, 2020, I had been playing peaceful music at the foot of the bed for Hannah while she rested. Her breathing was labored. Kellie never left her side. Neither did her “puppies.” At one point it seemed that Hannah was agitated at the music, so I set the guitar down. I was sitting there nervously scrolling through her prayer page. I hadn’t given an update in a while.
Then I saw it. It was the same butterfly that was in my vision twelve years before. This time, it wasn’t a vision. A friend of mine from college who knew nothing about the blue butterfly vision, posted a picture of the blue butterfly, this time on a white background, in a thread where a lot of people were just telling us that they were praying for us. There it was. I lifted the phone to show Kellie and she told me, “I think Hannah just took her last breath.” She had. It was as if God was telling us, “She is with me now. Hannah’s time for healing has come.” We called her brother Luke upstairs and the three of us just stood there at the foot of her bed, clung to each other, and wept.
I know that there is a lot about the intermediate state that we do not understand, but Jesus, the apostle Paul, and Jesus’ beloved friend and disciple, John, all taught that the existence of those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior continues in the presence of God, even before the future resurrection. It causes me to smile to think that after meeting Jesus, that Hannah and my mother embraced, this time with tears of joy.
Victor Hugo wrote this in anticipating his own transition to heaven: “I feel within me that future life. I am like a forest that has been razed; the new shoots are stronger and brighter. . . . For half a century I have been translating my thoughts into prose and verse: history, drama, philosophy, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and song; all of these I have tried. But I feel I haven’t given utterance to the thousandth part of what lies within me. . . . My work will recommence the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes upon twilight, but opens upon the dawn.”
To be continued...one glorious day!