What Hannah Taught Me…

March 27, 2015
Virgil Thomas, ChangingAging.org

Hannah3Hannah O’Hara Thomas passed away today. She lived 17-and-a-half years longer than anyone predicted. While it is so painful, tragic, and downright unfair that she left us after only 18 years, I believe that in that time she lived more fully and gave more than most people could in a 100 years.

Hannah was born with a rare disease called Ohtahara Syndrome. Developmentally, her and her sister, Haleigh, never made it past six months; yet they have always had old souls. Hannah was the embodiment of wisdom, love, grace, and kindness. She passed her wisdom on to thousands of people around the world.

Life will always throw unexpected turns and hardships. I don’t believe this happens for any particular reason, there is no grand lesson or preset path. Shortly after Hannah was born, we realized she would have the same life as her sister. The mathematics and statistics on this are staggering. It’s like winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning twice, on the same day. So many of us have learned from Hannah, but I guess the only thing I can do is reflect on what she has taught me.

Life is not fair or kind but Hannah didn’t care about that. How we live our lives must always be independent of the struggles we face. Our lives are not diminished or marked down no matter how far they deviate from the norm. Hannah’s life was unlike anything anyone of us could experience or imagine; yet it was of purity and grace and love. Most people can only hope to have a life as rich and meaningful. Hannah taught me this.

She taught me that perception of strength and weakness is fundamentally flawed. On the outside she was frail, her flesh and bone made it so that she could never walk or talk, but she was the strongest person I know. Time and again she confronted an illness that would break the biggest and strongest among us. She fought for life. This determination led us to dub her “The Toughest Thomas.” Her power came from love. Hannah taught me this.

Love is the most powerful force. From the day she was born until the day she died Hannah was surrounded by love from her sister, her mother and father, the nurses that gave her everything, her family, and her tribe. But she also gave love. Everyone who ever met her was left with a profound feeling of goodness and grace that can only come from pure love. Hannah taught me this.

When I was younger, I could not understand why the girls were the way they were. Love drives a person to do incredible things. I used to dream I would wake up one morning to find them cured, talking, and walking like other girls their ages. My instinct is to figure it out, to fix it, to make it work, to punish those responsible, there must be a solution, a battle to fight, a dragon to slay. But there was never anything to fix, no dragon to slay. And that is ok. I believe Hannah accepted her life and her fate in a way that only the oldest and wisest can. She knew when it was time to fight, and when it was time to go. Sitting in her parents’ arms, surrounded by her family I believe, if she could, she would have told us, “It’s ok.” Hannah taught me this.

There is a void left when that much love disappears. It is a space that will no doubt be felt in our family for a very long time. After she passed, we placed her Lamby with her, her cuddle toy to take with her into whatever lays for her beyond. Though she was wise, powerful, and tough she was still our baby. No one with a Lamby should ever die. She was 18. In another time, another life, she would be applying to college, getting ready for prom, complaining to her mother about how her father wouldn’t let her stay out past 10:00. My brothers and I would be standing menacingly as some boy came to pick her up for her first date. We would grill him about his intentions, and threaten him in hushed tones as only large, overprotective brothers can. But that was not her life and “it’s ok.” Hannah taught me this.

We love you, Hannah. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

67 Comments. Leave new

Hannah, our teacher. The entire world touched by wisdom, love, grace, and kindness. What a beautiful tribute from her big brother. The entire Thomas family is in my thoughts and never ceasing prayers for peace and comfort. We love you.

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Thoughts and prayers have been going for weeks, and will continue. Hannah has taught so many so much for all of her life. It was my honor to meet her a few times and see the grace and spirit that Virgil speaks of. May we all be so blessed as to have such gifts come into our lives if only for brief moments. Take care of each other while loving thoughts and prayers envelope you all.

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Virgil, your entire family is in my thoughts and prayers during this time. Although I never met Hannah, being of the Eden tribe, I feel I know her some. I have shared her spirit and wisdom, along with that of Haleigh, to many people through workshops and trainings. Eden is better for knowing her; indeed everyone is better for Hannah’s life. Hold each other close and know that sooooo many are sending comforting, healing energies to all of you.

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Virgil what a heart-warming tribute to your sister sir 🙂

Dr.Thomas, Jude and family, I am saddened by the news today. I, like so many others feel like I knew Hannah, she lives on in so many us. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

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Beautiful, Virgil. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Hannah. May her memory be a blessing. She will live on in your heart.

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Thank you, Virgil, for putting into words the feelings of so many of us. You are a strong and wonderful brother. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We have all been so fortunate to have learned so much from Hannah, always an angel.

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David Korman
March 27, 2015 4:56 pm

My deepest condolences to all. Indeed, she will not be forgotten, and her memory is a blessing.

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thank you, virgil…you and your family have been blessed with kindness and understanding and unconditional love that few have in their hearts. it gives back what is received and is a beautiful thing…

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Sheridan Black
March 27, 2015 5:39 pm

So, so very sorry for the earthly loss of this angel. Her life was a blessing. It was so meaningful to so many. Her inspiration will last forever. Peace and comfort to you all as you grieve.

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Blessings for Hannah and your entire family…

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Beautiful…. This song just came to mind, so I feel compelled to share… take care https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwT9fJ2HKHg

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Diedra Kearney
March 27, 2015 6:02 pm

What a tender and loving tribute to this sweet and brave sister, daughter, and teacher. I have also been touched by the opportunities I have had to learn about and from Hannah during her courageous time with us. Thank you to the Thomas family for sharing her with us, thank you for allowing her spirit to teach us all perspective, what it means to be deeply loved, and about the miracle of service.

Sending love and prayers up on behalf of your entire family.

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LuMarie Polivka-West
March 27, 2015 6:07 pm

Virgil – This is a beautiful tribute to your sister, Hannah, and a lovely reflection of the love that you and your whole family surrounded her with throughout her too short, but meaningful life.

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Linda lawther
March 27, 2015 6:10 pm

So many have learned from Haliegh and Hannah from a distance. My prayers and heartfelt sympathy are with this Thomas family in this loss.

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Kathie NeuOrgan
March 27, 2015 6:11 pm

Dear Virgil, what a lovely, heart-warming tribute to your sister. Thank you so much for sharing the gift of Hannah and her beautiful life. I am very sorry for your loss and pray that you and your family find comfort in your sweet memories of her.

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This was a lovely and touching tribute to your sister. Your words, like Hannah herself, have touched many. Thank you for sharing this picture of her life and light. The Thomas family is in my heart and in my prayers, especially dear Haleigh who must feel this most deeply. Love to all.

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Chris McMahon
March 27, 2015 6:23 pm

Thank you Virgil, Hannah has been pivotal in changing many lives and she will continue to do so in the teachings the Thomas family have given us. May unconditional love enfold and embrace all of you.

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What a loving tribute to Hannah. In my thoughts and prayers.

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Jen Quinones
March 27, 2015 7:02 pm

Virgil, what an amazing tribute. Hannah’s spirit continues to live as the world continues to change because of her. We have lots to celebrate in her honor. Prayers to you and your entire family.

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Virgil,
Yes, a beautiful heart warming tribute to your sister Hannah. She will be deeply missed.
Marci Solomon

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Jalaja Bonheim
March 27, 2015 8:00 pm

I’m so very sorry. I never got to meet Hannah but I heard so much about her, and even from a distance I could sense the extraordinarily field of love that surrounded her, the same love that shines through your words.

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Sally Rineker
March 27, 2015 8:07 pm

What a beautiful tribute to your sweet sister. Sending Love, Hugs and Prayers to you and your family.

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Thank you for sharing your tribute and another inspiration to how love and caring can make a difference. She was pure love….

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Virgil, thank you for sharing your love for your sister with us. i am touched. Harey

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Virgil~ My thoughts and prayers are with you & your beautiful family. I think about you guys a lot! Your sister was a phenomenal light & I feel privileged to have met her:) Be well, and know you & yours are loved!

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Terry Edwards
March 27, 2015 10:37 pm

A most beautiful tribute. I feel blessed to have been in the presence of Hannah, the wise teacher. May your hearts be comforted knowing that her inspiration and legacy will live on forever.

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What a spirit filled story. I cried just reading about her know that the entire Thomas Family are in our thoughts and prayers. If you need me or if I can do anything, please do not hesitate to call on me. Love coming your way.

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So beautiful Virgil. Hannah and Haleigh have been with us all during our Eden journey. I had the honor and privilege of meeting them last year. I also had the privilege of experiencing the magnificence of the love in the Thomas family. My love and healing thoughts are with you all in this very sad time.

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That’s really beautiful, Virgil. What a lovely tribute.

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Linda Lewis-Moors
March 28, 2015 6:06 am

What an eloquent tribute. Condolences to you and your family and much love from my family and me.

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What a moving testament to Hannah. How can we ever know the impact or value of each life. To Jude, Bill, all of the Thomas’, my deepest condolences.

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Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts Virgil. I feel privileged to have met Hannah and to have been welcomed into your family home. With lots of love, Sara

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Jennie Azizi
March 28, 2015 8:55 am

Beautiful Virgil – thank you. During Hannah’s short life she felt the love & security that can only come from a very special family. My heart felt condolences to Bill, Jude & Hannah’s brothers & sister.

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Virgil, your tribute to Hannah is lovely.God’s peace to you and your family.

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Sending love and peace to you all. Victoria

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Tom and Nancy Murray
March 28, 2015 11:01 am

Sending our thoughts and prayers to your entire family.

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Virgil, thank you for sharing your wonderful tribute to Hannah. I thank your Mom for introducing me to such a special young lady. We will all reflect on her memory and what she gave back to all of us through her love, grace and strength. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you. Rest in peace, Hannah.

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claice bagnall
March 28, 2015 12:32 pm

my love and prayers to you. Vergil gave a wonderful tribute to Hannah .
cla

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Lisa Anthony
March 28, 2015 3:23 pm

What a beautiful tribute to your sister, Virgil. I never got to meet Hannah but I know how much care and love your family gave her. She was one fortunate girl to have you for a family–and I know you all will miss her. Love to your whole family. Lisa and Bolton

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Dara Padwo-Audick
March 28, 2015 3:34 pm

Virgil,
Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to Hannah with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Much love. Dara, Mike and Jacob

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Virgil, thank you for for your tribute. As an Eden Educator, I always pay tribute to Hannah and Haleigh, as wise teachers and guides for us all. Prayers for you and your family.

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Very well written, Virgil!!! Hannah will be missed!! She brought me great joy for many years!!

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Wow Virgil. I can’t imagine what you and your family are feeling but I am deeply moved by your words. Thank you for sharing them with us. Your sisters have had such an impact on the lives of so many. And yes, Hannah will never be forgotten. To Jude, Bill and the Thomas family, I wish you all peace, as you go forth. My thoughts are prayers are with you.

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BarbaraSmullen
March 28, 2015 7:56 pm

my heart aches for you, but my heart also says a deep thank you for sharing with me (us) all those so-wise things Hannah taught you.

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MY condolences to the entire Thomas family. May your dear love, Hannah, rest in peace.

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Linda DRUMMOND
March 28, 2015 8:30 pm

What a wonderful gift Hannah was to your family and every life she touched. I remember reading your book after I had heard you speak. Through Hannah you have made such a difference to our elderly. May Hannah rest in peace and may you heal. peace.

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Chuck and Ann Tompkins
March 29, 2015 12:28 am

Virgil, what a beautiful tribute to your precious sister, Hannah, and all that she taught you in her life. We only know of her and Haleigh through our good friend, Sonja Needs. In her picture, we see such a lovely, sweet girl and how you would see the wonderful qualities in her. We pray for God to comfort you and your family during this time of sorrow.

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Dearest Family,
I do believe that some souls come in a sort of sacrificial life to allow others the gift of knowing unconditional love, real love, under all circumstances.Your baby is a highly evolved soul showing us that life is always a gift, always precious! She gave our daughter, Jessica, so much love. How brave and strong Hannah is and always will be! We send our condolences to your family.

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Angela Mason
March 29, 2015 8:35 pm

Heartbreakingly beautiful. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Virgil.

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Thanks Virgil. Your words are yet another gift Hannah has given to the world. Take heart that her legacy lives on in the work we do here every day at The Eden Alternative.

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Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing.

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Thank you, Virgil for this tribute to your remarkable sister. And, thanks to Hannah for teaching us how the power of love and caring is so important to those whose voices may be silent or unheard.

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Sarah Elliott
March 30, 2015 2:20 pm

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul that all of us in the Eden family feel we have been blessed by. Thank you for sharing the love of your sister and family with us Virgil. My healing thoughts and condolences to the Thomas family. Thank you Hannah.

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Virgil, your tribute to your sister is stunningly poignant, beautiful, and inspiring. I wish I had known Hannah. My very sincere condolences to you and your family.

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Meghan Kennedy
March 30, 2015 9:42 pm

This tribute is so beautiful. Sending love to your family, perhaps especially to Haleigh who will surely miss her little sister’s presence so deeply.

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I came upon this post on happenstance, as someone i know has a parent at cottage grove rochester.
what a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman.

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Virgil, I loved reading your post and have known Hannah through my experience as an Eden educator and the stories in “Learning from Hannah”. Your family has taught us so much and extended your family to the world. May you remember all Hannah taught you and her love and wisdom shine on us now. My prayers for you and the Thomas family during this difficult time.

Beth Irtz

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Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam. My condolonces on your very sad news. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Mary Butler, Roscommon, Ireland

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Deana Jacoby
March 31, 2015 3:28 pm

Virgil, Thank you for the blessing today. Hannah has always touched my stories that I share as an Eden educator. I too felt her grace and tenderness when I met her during your fathers “Learning from Hannah” Tour. Thoughts and Prayers for you and your family.

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Andrea Salazar
March 31, 2015 6:15 pm

Virgil, What a truly beautiful tribute! I thank you and the entire Thomas family for sharing sweet Hannah with us. I never had the honor of meeting her in person, but I felt like I knew her because of all the wonderful stories told about Hannah and Haleigh. As an Eden Educator I talk about your amazing sisters in each class I teach, and their lessons of love, compassion, patience, kindness, and the gift of “just being”. Hannah and Haleigh are angels among us, and we are all richly blessed to somehow be a part of their lives. I’m sure Hannah knew how dearly loved she was by all!
I have had the honor of meeting you and your parents, I know what good, kind, wise, and wonderful people you are. I’m so happy to know you!
My heart and prayers go out to your entire family for the loss of this precious young lady. The comfort comes in knowing that Hannah’s beautiful soul and legacy will live on.
GOD BLESS~

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Virgil, you are a gift of God, a reason why Hannah’s heart beat every day. The Lord has a plan for you in your life along with Hannah’s. Embrace peace knowing he is with you both and will never leave nor forsake you. You have wings on earth and now Hannah has been given her heavenly wings. Love and comfort to you and your family.
Dawn :o) <*)))))<

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Colleen Sanchez
April 1, 2015 3:24 pm

Dearest Bill and Jude and family. Peace be with you and with your family and may God grant you the needed solace to suffer your lose. A big hug to you all.

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Anthony Vicari
April 2, 2015 9:37 pm

Words are not enough when things like this happen to us. May God’s loving kindness and smile surround each of you; now and always. Hannah’s beauty and true spirit continues to shine in each one of us. Thank you for sharing her life with us. You are loved

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I am sotty to read of your loss. Lessons from Hannah moved me.
May you all be comforted in the gift she was.

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Daryl & Mary Ann Denning
April 7, 2015 5:44 pm

When words are so difficult to find, Virgil’s love found them. Beautiful. When words are not spoken, they can be felt. Also beautiful, as the gentle souls of the Thomas family communicate so well. A blessing to all who have been touched by their lives, even if briefly along our journeys.

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Paul Platner
April 16, 2015 1:31 am

We lost our daughter 23 years ago. Our prayers are with you in your journey. May you continue to be blessed.

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GOD=LOVE The gifts HE GIVES ARE PRICELESS. HANNA A GIFT FROM GOD SHARED HERSELF WITH MANY. WHEN WE BELIEVE GOD GIVES US A GIFT LIFE EVERLASTING. SO WE DO NOT DIE WE ARE PROMISED EVERLASTING LIFE. SO SHE SMILES DOWN FROM ABOVE. WAITING FOR YOU. SO BELIEVE IN THE TRUTH. SURRENDER YOUR ALL. SEE HER AGAIN IN THE SWEET BYE AND BYE. LOVE LIVES FOREVER.

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