How can you sum up a life? Today marks what would have been her 24th birthday.
The memories, the tears, the laughs. 22 years of memories can never be summed up in words. My memories with her will never leave me. I thought the best way I could share with you how important she was to me, was through 7 of the things I learned from her. I learned a lot from my little sister and I’m still learning!
1. Give it all you’ve got! #AHANNAHPERCENT
For years, Hannah really struggled to be confident in her abilities. Her natural skills were with people and beauty. She was arguably the wisest person I knew, but at times she felt dumb or unworthy in a world that judges everything. Hannah truly shined with words; she could make you feel more loved and more understood than I ever could! And that is okay!
You are wonderfully and beautifully created, with amazing gifts unique to only you. Hannah taught me that we need to stop fighting to fit into this world and be who we think we should be and start being who we were created to be. There’s a common misconception out there that we need to work on our weaknesses and try to fit into the mold of the world. Why? Studies show that we are at our best when we learn to leverage our strengths. It makes sense, but we’re often so bad at it. It’s easy for me to get wrapped up into what everyone around me is doing.
Some months before Hannah moved to heaven, she started telling people she loved them AHANNAHPERCENT! She started using this phrase frequently, a little cheesy but so true and so accurate.
This was her unique way of saying I love you in a way only I can love you! WOW, what an amazing statement and feeling. Let’s learn to live and love in the best way we know how to.
2. LOVE proactively
Hannah made this world a better place, and I pray that her legacy will never die. Hannah always showed those around her how much she loved them through the smallest and the biggest of ways.
On my last birthday with Hannah, I received one of the greatest gifts I have ever gotten. Hannah didn’t have a job or a lot of money but that didn’t deter her from making it the most special birthday ever. When I came downstairs on the morning of my birthday, the entire kitchen was decorated with penguin streamers, confetti, and other party favors. When I got to the table, I saw a stack of little cupcakes with small, sugared penguins on top. Next to the cupcakes was a small bucket, painted across with penguins, inside of which I found 24 unique things Hannah loved about me, handwritten on pieces of folded paper. Hannah, meanwhile, was sleeping upstairs. She had stayed up until at least 2 a.m. working on the surprise.
Hannah taught me that love is not about the most expensive gift one can buy, but about showing one’s heart to someone and recognizing them as they truly are. Hannah was a living example of proactive love.
3. Hug frequently
Hannah gave the greatest hugs! Hannah loved to make everyone feel welcome and valued through hugs, whether it was their first meeting, or their hundredth. There’s nothing quite like a giant squeeze from someone you love or that unexpected, slightly-awkward hug from a new friend. Every chance Hannah had she would show someone she cared by giving her signature hug. There are numerous studies out there sharing the benefits of a hug. Did you know that just a simple hug can take away stress? According to psychologist Matt Hertenstein in an interview with NPR, when we hug someone it releases a hormone called oxytocin, also nicknamed the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin has been shown to have many benefits, including reducing stress. Additionally, longer hugs have been shown to release serotonin, the happiness hormone. There are countless benefits to hugging. I encourage you, be a hugger!
4. COFFEE, anyone?
I can’t think of anything Hannah liked more than coffee. She talked about it all the time, had coffee t-shirts, and was always up for a coffee run. Any time I go into a Starbucks or even drink a cup of coffee, I think of her.
Find some things that you love! It’s good for the soul. There is so much more that Hannah loved and loved to do, but her love of coffee always makes me smile. What makes you smile? What do you really enjoy? Hannah taught me that it’s important to find what you love, and make time for it. There are certain things that just have a way of making us feel free and happy; singing at the top of your lungs, painting, penguins, sports, or even a cup of coffee.
5. Bring some sparkle into this world
Hannah could walk into any room and make it shine. I’d often ask her why she always liked having things with so much glitter. “It’s fun! And it brings joy into this world.” Hannah loved making others happy! She was never afraid to tell someone they’re beautiful. About a week after my sister moved to heaven, a lady I’d never met came up to me. She was crying and told me that one day, she had walked into a church, where she didn’t know anyone. She was shy. Hannah saw her, walked straight to her, and welcomed her with a big bright smile, exclaiming, “girl, you look beautiful!” The woman was amazed at how friendly and caring Hannah was, and told me that she really needed that. Because of Hannah’s sparkle, she kept going to that church.
6. Just keep swimming
We loved Finding Nemo! Honestly, one of the greatest children’s movies of all time, with many incredible life lessons. My brother Jon and I love going to the aquarium every now and then because it reminds us so much of Hannah. She loved the “little fishies.” The last time we were at the aquarium together, Hannah went up to the little Dory fish and sung, “no eating here tonight, no, no, no eating here tonight! You’re on a diet.” That memory makes me laugh and cry a little bit every time I’m at the aquarium.
Life is filled with twists and turns, ups and downs. As you go through these trials in life, remember that God is right there beside you. We can’t always understand why everything around us is happening, but we can be sure that God is in control. I am always comforted by Paul when he says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians, 1:16). Fight the good fight, and know that it is okay to experience the lowest of lows; it happens. Don’t go at it alone, and don’t give up. Hannah struggled with pretty heavy depression in her last two years, but she never let it beat her. Just keep swimming, preferably with a few friends and a whole lot of Jesus.
7. Seek Jesus
Nothing is more important than this! This is the daily truth that has brought me peace since Hannah moved to heaven. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Oh, the hope we have in Jesus. I loved seeing Hannah struggle for Joy and seeking Jesus. It’s a daily journey running with Jesus! Praying, loving and growing daily. As I celebrate the life of Hannah, and mourn her passing, I am comforted in the truth that we have a God who gives us a reason to celebrate.
While I can never quite sum up Hannah’s life into words, these 7 lessons Hannah taught me, help me as I go through this journey we call life. Nothing can ever replace her and I long for the day that I get to see Jesus and be reunited with my sister. But we are assured of this, that Jesus has an awesome plan and we are all a part of that plan. I hope Hannah’s life and these lessons can encourage you as much as they’ve encouraged me. Go live and love #AHANNAHPERCENT!