HANNAH

One October day a tiny, purple-faced baby girl arrived into the world. She came one month earlier than expected, so her daddy frantically put together baby furniture at home while her mother scribbled girl names on scraps of paper in her hospital room. The baby girl slept, for she knew all this did not matter. She slept, only opening her swollen eyes to peek at the strange world around her. And when she awoke hungry, she cried a dainty cry. The day her parents brought her home, they named her Hannah Morgan. They placed her in a little white crib beside their bed, and they stared at her as she slept. "When will she do something?" her father asked. Her parents fumbled through baths, messy diapers, night-time feedings, and out-of-tune lullabies. The baby girl soon fell into a schedule of eating, sleeping, and studying the faces of her parents who now asked in amazement, "What did we do before we had her?" The weeks passed quickly, and Hannah grew chubby and fair and beautiful. She smiled big smiles, gazed into her grandmothers' eyes, and touched visitors with a peacefulness that was like no other baby's. Everybody who met her, loved her. But her paediatrician was worried. Hannah did not kick and move like other babies, and she worked hard to breathe. The neurologist's words, "shortened life span," soon drowned out the Christmas carols in her parents' heads. A sad family brought Hannah home after a sterile Christmas spent in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. With heavy hearts, they asked God one question — "Why?" but only silence was returned. Over the next months, the baby calmly studied the doctors as they poked at her tongue and watched her strong tummy expand with every breath. She cried only when they drew her blood, and her once-uncoordinated parents quickly comforted her. Time passed, filled with visits from grandparents and many friends and relatives who loved this peaceful baby girl. Hannah spent mornings rocking as Mommy sang her all the songs from The Sound of Music. She spent evenings in Daddy's lap, contentedly watching prime-time TV as he massaged her legs and feet. In the afternoons, grandmothers often appeared like magic, shaking bright rattles and talking with melodic voices as they stroked her soft little head. Like angels, gentle hospice nurses descended with their stethoscopes and serenity. A chaplain cradled the baby and prayed. Molly Dog guarded Hannah's bed and helped clean her tiny fingers and toes. The baby girl took walks and wagon rides on crisp winter days; and before long, spring had come, and she had seen all the colours of the leaves, By this time, Hannah had grown weak. The steady pumping of an oxygen machine marked time. There were pain medicines, tube feedings, and quiet family talks. The tired baby could no longer smile. New visitors brought food and touched her soft hair. Many stared and sighed and asked God "Why?" but only silence was returned. Soon Hannah began to sleep as deeply and as peacefully as when she was a newborn. She slept for many hours, and the tears of her family soaked into her bright cotton blanket. One day, she did not awaken. In their quiet home, her parents asked God "Why?" At the cemetery, many people who loved Hannah asked God "Why?" All around town, people reading the obituary of a baby they'd never met asked God "Why?" Again and again, only silence was returned. In Heaven, the once-quiet baby girl kicked and squealed with delight. She chewed her toys, tore pages from books and fidgeted as frazzled angels changed her diapers. She tugged on her great-grandmother 's earrings, and with strong hands she explored her great-grandfather's face. She pulled herself up on Jesus' knees, and soon she learned to walk. Her big family in Heaven continued the love that her small family on Earth had begun. From
Heaven, God heard many grieving people. All the time, through tears and anger, they asked, "Why?" God cried, too, for He'd once lost a son. Being human, even the Son had asked, "Why?" It seemed to many people that God never answered this question. Yet in the silence — over weeks, years, even decades the answers came. To each person the answer was unique: for some, the answer made them more tolerant; for others, it reversed what they thought was important; and for others, it gave them a peace they had never known. Even in their sorrow, Hannah's parents knew that the gift God had given them was powerful beyond words, beyond imagination, beyond human understanding. And so it was that the baby girl who lacked the strength to lift a feather, had the power to change so many.

Bereavement Magazine January/February 1998; 8133 Telegraph Rd; Colorado Springs, CO 80920;