What Hannah Taught Me…
Hannah 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.