Last weekend we traveled north to attend the best birthday party ever. It was for Hannah.
I, for one, am so glad I get to write this story instead of speak it as I can’t seem to talk about Hannah without going into the snort-cry. We are long-time friends of Hannah’s parents, Sandi and Dave. Sandi and I used to teach together, back when we were young, spry, and one of us was sporting an unfortunately short haircut. I taught with
my butch cut Sandi while she was pregnant with Hannah, and I was forever scarred with envy when she was a billion weeks pregnant and still able to fit into her jeans with merely the help of a rubber band to close her zipper. I love Sandi, even though she’s skinny, beautiful, tall, and organized. This is true friendship.
We met Hannah during her very first days on this earth. I have a photo
in a safe somewhere of me with the butch cut, holding baby Hannah. This photo shows the cuter half of that moment.
When Hannah was about four months old, she started having seizures, and after a very long road with gut-wrenching hospital stays, doctors appointments, long nights, and scary moments, Hannah was diagnosed with a very rare seizure disorder that typically takes the fragile life of a baby by age two. This month, Hannah turned thirteen.
Oh, how we love her. How I love watching her parents nurture her with grace and patience and the ferocious love of people who truly know Jesus and His bone-deep joy.
How I love watching her siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents embrace Hannah, reminding her in every single moment how much she is loved and prayed for and admired.
How I love learning from the McDills how to imitate God and His stubborn caretaking of our hearts, there always to hold our hands, pick us up, cradle us, wait for our wholeness.
How I love it that Hannah cried with joy when her baby sister, our goddaughter, Faith, was born.
How we watched, prayed, and waited with full and heavy hearts as Hannah’s dad, Dave, served in Afghanistan. Sandi served her children faithfully as she waited for his homecoming. (Apparently, hyperventilation into a paper bag, my coping mechanism of choice, did not appeal to Sandi. Did I mention she is also tall and thin?) For the record, Dave’s send-off ceremony was one of the most wrenching and beautiful experiences of my life. I had to be taken out on a stretcher due to my uncontrollable sobbing, but it was worth it, particularly when Dave returned safely 15 months later.
How I love seeing Hannah communicate with blinks and and facial expressions in a way no doctor predicted she could. I love it that Hannah proves everybody wrong.
Dang it all, I’m deep into the snort-cry again.
Happy birthday, sweet Hannah Mae. You are a tangible, real-life expression of the beauty, creativity, and fierce love of God, right here among us. We love you so much, it hurts.
For more on the McDill family, please see this fantastic article, recently published in the Colorado Springs Gazette.