Three months ago heaven gained the most amazing 16 year old girl. Today, I want to share my perspective of 9/20/12, a day that I will never forget:
Have you ever felt as if you are living life just going through the motions? Do you feel as if no one cares what you do? Maybe you are the type of person who thinks you can do whatever you want and the only one who will be impacted is you. This is your life, so you make the decisions. You think that you don’t make a difference, and that you’re the only one who feels the weight of your choices, your mistakes, and your careless actions. No matter how you might feel, you are making an impact on people and leaving the world a different place, although it may take a day of sorrow for you to realize it.
That Thursday morning even the sky was crying. My friend and I had just finished a test, and we were ready to rush to the high school. By this point, though, everyone had been crying for hours. The night before had been filled with prayer and scared hearts. Despite our desperate hopes, Hannah had left this world due to injuries sustained in a car accident. The drive to the school felt like a blur. I remember only one clear moment: passing the intersection where the accident had taken place. The road was marked with black tire marks from hurried first responders and police cars; I could have sworn there were still marks of blood on the cold ground.
I found it strange that the outside of the school looked the same as it always had, but for some reason that morning, you could feel sorrow welling out of every inch of the building. The usually cheery brick and stone of the school seemed to be a prison that contained the pain. The dying leaves on the trees were damp from the rain. The cracked sidewalk was cold and slippery. Everything around the school cried out for the grieving hearts of many people. It was cold when I stepped out of the car, but I felt as if the chill began in my heart rather than in the brisk air. My friend and I stood side by side and took a deep breath before entering the building. We knew that the second we stepped inside, our lives would never be the same.
As we stood in the stairwell, my friend asked me to stop walking. In an empty voice she said, “I can’t do this.” I looked into the face of my friend whom I had come to know very well in the past few years, and I realized that I had never seen such a look on her face. She was almost expressionless, except for her jaw being slightly dropped, but her eyes gave away her true feelings. Looking into them I could see her realize something that she hadn’t understood before that moment. Her eyes said it loud and clear, “Hannah is really gone.” The overwhelming emotions of that day couldn’t be bottled up anymore; she crumpled against a wall and broke down.
After pulling ourselves together as best we could, we entered the hallway. Normally this high school hallway would be filled with students who were laughing and having a good time. It was only silent when the classroom doors kept the students’ noise contained, but even then it was only a dimmed sound. This was no ordinary day. There was silence even though the hallways were crowded with students. One word truly sums up what we witnessed in that hallway: brokenness.
The students at my high school always have their guard up. Everyone will hide their strong emotions and true feelings behind shields of makeup, name-brand clothes, cocky attitudes, and all forms of materialism. I knew that those students were broken because any kind of guard they had up was shattered along with their hopes of seeing Hannah again. Everyone wore blue that day to support Hannah; little did we know that she wouldn’t live long enough to see that symbol of support. Looking back, I now see how fitting it was that the blue color we wore that day matched our grieving hearts.
All students were called to class so that attendance could be taken. I was left standing with three of my friends who were taking classes at the community college. We stood at the end of a hallway that we knew would be very hard to walk down, but at the same time we had a great desire to pass through it. From where we stood, all I could see were balloons held down by roses, a package of permanent markers, and an almost empty box of tissues. Everything else in the hallway dimmed in comparison to what we were searching for. As we began to step closer, we were able to get a clear view of Hannah’s locker.
The locker was closed, but there were three pictures tapped on the outside. The top one was of Hannah sitting cross-legged on a couch with her young nephew; they were looking at each other making silly faces and laughing. Below that was a picture that she took right after she got her braces off; she had a big smile on her face, and her eyes held the subtle kindness that I will always remember seeing in her. The last picture was taken on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth; Hannah was looking out over the water with an expression that was very peaceful.
One of the girls I was with opened the locker. All of the contents were left exactly as Hannah had put them before she left school the day before. I wondered what had been on her mind as she left. Was she thinking about a history paper she needed to write? Or was her mind consumed with a conversation she had just finished with a friend? Who made her the paper Mache bird sitting on the top shelf? Did Hannah have any idea that she was closing her locker for the very last time? Were the notebooks and papers disorganized because she was in a rush? Was she not paying attention at the intersection because she was hurrying?
Every inch of her locker was covered with hundreds of messages. There were messages filled with raw emotion from the hearts of many students and teachers who had admired everything about Hannah. Even students who had never spoken with her wrote about how Hannah’s presence and personality impacted them. The different things written showed how influencing Hannah was in our small high school.
“You were the most amazing person I have ever met.”
“I miss you already.”
“I know you’re smiling down on us from heaven.”
“I didn’t know you, but I always wanted to.”
“I wish we could have talked more.”
“You were a light that filled up the whole school.”
“I love you so much!”
While reading those notes I realized something important about my classmates. Every person in my school lost part of their heart over this death, and everyone grieved for Hannah. Many of my classmates lost hope, but were growing from this experience. We were given an opportunity to realize how short life was, and how we needed to love and appreciate one another. Through losing a friend and classmate, we were learning to take advantage of the time we had to impact the world.
Hannah lived on this earth for 16 years, 3 months, and 9 days. Of that time, she attended our school for one year and sixteen days. In that brief year, she impacted many people; she made a difference, and she left this world a different place. Hannah left her high school, her church, and her community a better place. She wasn’t the most outgoing, or perfect person. However, Hannah made a difference because she was herself, and she cared about helping people.
You might think that you don’t make a difference, or that you aren’t doing anything important; however, every move you make and every word you say holds the potential to alter the lives of others. Your actions and words have the power to hurt or heal. You are affecting whether you like it or not people. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith, and impact people in a positive way. You have been given precious time on this earth that others haven’t been given, and you are here for a reason. Everything you do makes a difference and has an impact. Leave this world in better shape than the way you found it. Your decisions don’t just impact you; they also impact the lives of people around you. How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?