One year ago today, my cousin’s daughter Hannah died in a car accident. Currently I am up early remembering her and thinking of my family as they mourn.
Below is a Facebook post I wrote after she died. I realize now that the post doesn’t make much sense to people outside of my family. So, here’s some context. My grandparents loved each other deeply. My grandfather absolutely cherished my grandma Aldoris and often called her his “angel.” Even after he had a stroke and was hardly able get up, he insisted on standing through every verse of her favorite hymn whenever he heard it, as he always had, out of respect for her. She died October 16, 1999. I remember being so scared that my grandpa would die, too, because it didn’t seem possible that one of them could be around without the other. But my grandpa had a beautiful, tiny thing to keep him going. His very first great-grandchild had been born a month earlier. Baby Hannah was the only one of her generation who got to meet my grandmother, my grandpa’s angel. (Hannah’s generation is currently 47 little cousins, including my baby boy). Hannah and Grandpa were very close. Last August, my grandpa died at the age of 97. Two months later, one year ago, Hannah died at the age of 17.
Looking back, I could have written much more. I didn’t exalt any of her accomplishments or explain what she meant to me. I glossed over the incredible people who raised her- when I mention the Eimers and the Falks, that’s her parents (my cousin’s family) and her grandparents (my aunt’s family). Not enough was said about them. But I don’t want to edit it. This is where my heart was when Hannah died and these are the words that came out. And these were the words that were read at her funeral so I feel they have permanence in a spiritual way.
My grandpa holding baby Hannah the weekend of my grandmother’s funeral.
Through the midst of heartbreak and profound grief for my sweet little cousin and the loss of her beautifully unique spirit, I can’t help but feel grateful. I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that Hannah’s 17 years in this world parallel exactly the 17 years that my grandfather had to live without the love of his life, Aldoris. Hannah’s birth brought new life into our family just as we suffered the loss of our matriarch; and her departure from this world came just as we still suffer the loss of our patriarch. For all of the lives Hannah touched during her short life, she was nothing short of an angel to my Grandfather. As his first great-grandchild, Hannah held precious real estate in the heart of Grandpa Anderson. She also held the capacity to love and care for others to an extent unmatched by anyone outside of the Falk and Eimers families. And so, selfishly, I feel grateful for her life because it meant that my beloved Grandpa had a 17-year angel by his side through his years without Grandma. No other person besides Hannah could bring such positive enthusiasm to a room with such a soft voice. Nobody inspired life by pursuing her dreams quite like Hannah did. And none of us could have borne witnessing Grandpa experience her loss. I’m grateful that my Grandpa has both Grandma and Hannah with him now.
I love you little cousin. I wish I had the words to express what your loss means to this world, but I don’t have your gift of writing or your gift of unabashed sincerity. I promise we will all try to take care of your little siblings as well as you always did. Give Grandpa a hug for me.