This past Sunday afternoon, a beautiful 16 year old young lady named Hannah lost her life in a car accident. She lived in a community close to ours and in this past week, I have learned much about this young lady who was beautiful both inside and out. The text came through from one of our basketball moms as Hannah was on a team in our conference. The text said, “everyone say a prayer for Hannah’s family. She was a basketball player and was killed in a car accident this afternoon. She was a sophomore on the team.” This message and similar messages were traveling across different communities in our area. Such devastation.
Hannah is described by her family and friends in such beautiful ways. Hannah is described as doing what she loved- basketball, trap, pageants, and FFA and that each new thing she learned that she took it on with passion. Her family and friends said that Hannah would watch over her family, friends, and her animals. She is described as touching so many lives at such a young age. One of her best friends said: “She loved people with a passion and gave so many people brighter days. Hannah loved Jesus just like she loved her cows, pageants, and basketball. She changed a lot of lives, but not like she changed mine.”
She left behind her parents and brothers, grandparents, and so many family and friends. Her family, friends, teammates, school, and community will miss her and the bright light that she brought to this world. It is heartbreaking to see such a beautiful young lady gone at such a young age. I truly hope the friends and community continue to share with her family all of the ways that her life touched theirs. This is so important for those who are grieving.
My only son PK was killed at the age of 18 instantly in a car accident in June 2013 only 22 months after my husband was killed in a work related accident in August 2011. My two incredible daughters and I continue to learn much about grief and of the different ways that it affects our lives. A great gift that Hannah’s family can continue to receive from all is to continue to learn the many ways that their Hannah touched the lives of others. This is so important in grief. It has been wonderful to read this week all of the ways that Hannah’s life has touched so many. It is my sincere hope and prayer that these stories will continue and that they will encourage and touch many more lives in the days to come.
I remember the sadness and grief that my son PK’s friends and teammates were experiencing when he was killed 4 1/2 years ago. Often when a similar tragedy occurs then it brings those feelings of sadness back to the minds of those who have also suffered a devastating loss. One of PK’s dear friends Staci wrote this week, “Speaking from personal experience, losing a friend at such a young age is earth shattering and something no kid should ever have to endure. The pain that Hannah’s family and friends are experiencing is unbearable, and they could use all the prayers they can get.” Before PK had died, he had just recently shared with me about his friend Staci. He said, “Mom, Staci is probably one of my best friends out of the girls. I can talk to her about anything.” I remember sharing that with Staci after PK died. I wanted her to know what a blessing that she had been in my son’s life and to thank her for it.
I remember talking with so many of PK’s friends and teammates through the days, weeks, months, and years following his death. I knew their hearts were hurting. I knew that they missed my boy. My message to them has been the same to them since the day he died,
“The greatest gift that you can give to PK now is to make your own life so great. This will truly honor him.”
I believe this with all of my heart. I believe this for Hannah’s friends and teammates. The greatest tribute that they can give to her now is to make their own lives so great in honor of her. A good friend of mine, Brandon Smith, who writes for our local paper wrote a beautiful article on the heart-breaking loss of Hannah in his “From the Sideline” sports column in this week’s paper. In it he shared these words that I believe with all of my heart for those who are grieving, “Suit up and play the game. Play the game hard. And play for them. Carry the memories of your lost teammate with you. Hold them in your heart. Seek refuge in God, knowing He will provide you with comfort. Be reminded that life is not to be taken for granted. Live passionately. Part of them is living through you. There may be a piece missing from the puzzle, but that piece is in your heart now.” These are just some of the beautiful words that he shared as he quoted Megan Sutton. Brandon concluded, “Life is so short and we can never understand some things. I encourage you to hug your child, mother, father, sister or brother and say a prayer before you go to bed tonight for Hannah’s family and friends who are going through this difficult time.”
These words are such beautiful words and full of such truth. It is so touching to see the tributes that other teams in our area are also doing. This week when we play Hannah’s team twice then our girls will be wearing these sweat wristbands to honor Hannah and to show love and support for her family, friends, teammates, school, and community. One of Hannah’s friends and teammates shared this week that their entire team has spent so much time together. She shared how comforting that it has been but also that it felt devastating that it took such a tragedy that caused so much brokenness within the team to realize how much they needed each other. This is often so true in grief as well. We reflect and we learn. We wish that it would not be a tragedy that teaches us those crucial life lessons. Prayerfully, we learn what we are able to and use those lessons to improve our lives and to be a future blessing to others.
My hope for Hannah’s family and friends during this time of such great grief is that they will give themselves permission to be real in their grief… when they need to cry that they will… when they have moments of joy and laughter that they will treasure them knowing that Hannah would want this in their lives… if they feel lost and broken that they would find others to talk with and to share their hearts, sadness, and fears with… that they would know that they are not alone and that God would wrap them up in His arms of love and hold them so tight… that as they begin to learn to live in a different world in which Hannah has left that they will carry her in their hearts… that they will make their lives so great in honor of beautiful Hannah who loved them all so very much.
I truly hope that the tributes continue long past this last week. Please remember that there are no words that will fix their pain but that you can each give Hannah’s family and friends gifts of acknowledging their pain and of being there for them. Please be there in whatever ways they need long into the future. As the shock wears off and as they learn to live with the pain of life without their Hannah, then please continue to be there for them. Please continue to tell them all of the wonderful stories about Hannah that you know. Please continue to share the beautiful life of Hannah with others, and we will all pray that her life will continue to make a difference and an impact on many more lives in the years to come.
This past Tuesday as I was selling tickets for the quilt that will be given away shortly that raises money for PK’s scholarship fund, I had some special interactions with some elementary age boys. The bracelets were on the table as usual, and one boy came and grabbed a bracelet and walked away smiling. As happens so often, it wasn’t long and their group came to the table to get more. One of the boys was reading the words on the bracelet and looked at me and asked, “What happened to PK?” I shared with him that PK was killed in a car accident. His eyes were big as he so sweetly said, “I am sorry for your loss.” I was explaining that they could look at his pictures that are hanging on the wall very close to where I was sitting. Ryker who is in the 5th grade looked at the boys and announced, “I can show you PK.” With those words, Ryker led the boys over to the pictures. A little while later, the boys walked by again, and one of them mouthed the words, “So sorry for your loss”. As usual these boys truly blessed my heart. I am thankful for each opportunity to share the life of my son. Ryker blessed my heart so much because it was obvious that he knew exactly who PK was, and this was such a gift to my heart as Ryker was so young when PK died. However, it was not surprising to me as Ryker’s family loved and knew PK well. Ryker’s dad Wesley coached PK in pee wee football. Ryker’s big brother Lake truly looked up to PK and always is wearing his PK bracelet. Ryker’s family loved my son, and it was so special to me that even young Ryker knew who my boy was. These young boys gave this mom who misses her own boy so very much such a priceless gift… they took the time to learn about PK and were wearing his bracelet that takes just a little piece of him with them and our motto “No excuses. No regrets.” Please continue to give these priceless gifts to Hannah’s family and friends.
Be patient in grief… try not to rush anyone who is grieving… acknowledge their pain and be there for them and remember one of my favorite quotes…
“Where there is great grief, there is great love.” Unknown
We will be lifting you all up in prayer. May each one make their lives great in honor of beautiful Hannah.