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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Valley of Mercy

By Alyseia Smith
Jan. 22, 2012

The Larsons* moved to a city in the Midwest when Hannah was 15 years old. At Hannah’s age, this made for a very hard transition. Making friends in 10th grade at a new school is never easy.

“Gals wouldn’t open up to her, but the guys would,” explains her mother, Dorothy. “She wanted to go to a Valentine’s dance at her high school with a guy we knew wasn’t a Christian, but she threw a fit so we let her go.”

If only Dorothy and Sam could have known that this night would change their daughter’s life forever.

“She was six weeks along when she finally told us she was pregnant,” Dorothy explains. “She asked if she could speak to us one night, with the youth pastor, and I knew what she was going to tell us. ... I didn’t know how to handle it as a mother. My heart sank because I knew what it meant for her life.”

The young man who had gotten Hannah pregnant denied repeatedly that he was the father. His parents also wanted nothing to do with the situation.

Then one day during school, the boy pulled Hannah out of class and took her to a Planned Parenthood clinic. He tried to convince her to have an abortion, but Hannah wouldn’t budge. To this day he has never seen his daughter.

Through much prayer and thought, Hannah decided to put her baby up for adoption.

“To be honest, I didn’t want her to give the child up,” says Dorothy. “I know what it’s like to be a mother and have that bond. But my husband kept me grounded. We prayed hard.”

Right after Hannah announced that she was pregnant, a woman from the Larsons’ church contacted Dorothy and asked if she could take Hannah out once a week just to talk and spend time together.

“I am so glad she did,” Dorothy remembers. “I didn’t realize how much Hannah needed someone else to talk to about all of this.”

Hannah’s new friend ultimately brought more than just moral support. A few months later, she approached the Larsons with a very special letter.

“She came to us while we were having a garage sale and handed us a letter that had the names of a couple she had gone to college with,” Dorothy recounts.

This couple, the Johnsons, pastored a church in the Northeast and were unable to have children. They had tried adopting several times, only to have the mother take the child back a few days later. They’d almost given up hope when they learned of Hannah and her situation.

A meeting with the Johnsons was planned.

“We sat down in our living room and talked for hours,” Dorothy explains. “I was amazed at the questions that Hannah was asking. Even though she was rebelling at the time, she asked questions about the couple’s spirituality — if her child would be raised in a Christ-centered home.”

As soon as Susan Johnson walked out the door, Hannah turned to Dorothy and said, “That is going to be my baby’s mother.” Later, the Larsons learned that Susan felt the same way the moment she left the house.

Three days after Nicole was born, Hannah was released from the hospital. She knew that once she left the hospital she would have to give up her precious baby girl.

“Leaving the hospital was one of the most difficult times that I can remember,” Dorothy recalls. “Hannah knew this would be one of the last times that she and her baby would ever be together.”

The baby had to be given away outside of the hospital, for legal reasons. So Hannah and Susan agreed on a place to meet.

“Hannah handed the baby over in tears, and she and Susan hugged for a long time with the baby in the middle,” explains Dorothy.

It was as if Hannah were handing over her heart. While the Johnsons celebrated a new life in their family, Hannah grieved the loss of a child.

“The day Hannah gave Nicole to the Johnsons, she came home, sat on the couch, and cried her eyes out,” Dorothy recalls through tears. “My heart hurt for her because I knew as a mother what she had just given up.”

Hannah decided to write a letter to Nicole explaining why she had to give her up for adoption. It provided a small release of the pain she was going through.

The Johnsons sent pictures of Nicole frequently, and Hannah kept them in a box — the same place she kept the letter she wrote to Nicole.

Nothing could have prepared the Larsons for what would happen next in their lives, however. Less than three years after the birth of Nicole, Hannah began to complain of a backache. When it didn’t get better, Dorothy took her to the doctor and they treated her for a kidney infection. Yet she still had pain.

After more tests the doctors decided to do exploratory surgery. Hannah was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 19. She started chemotherapy immediately, losing all of her hair and much weight.

“After her first round of chemo, she was in so much pain because the tumor had swollen,” Dorothy recalls. “She went through a whole year of chemo.”

The Larsons believed and prayed diligently that Hannah would be healed.

“One day when we got home from one of her chemo treatments Hannah told us that she never wanted to leave us,” Dorothy explains. “She said she wanted to stay in our home forever. I knew at that moment that she had rebuilt her faith in God. She had fallen away for so many years before.”

Hannah also assured her parents that she was ready to go if God would take her.

Sam brought a twin bed into Hannah’s room and slept next to her at night.

“Every night she would hold his hand until she fell asleep,” Dorothy says.

One night, in order to let Sam get a sound night’s sleep, Dorothy slept next to Hannah, holding her hand. It was Hannah’s last night on earth, as she slipped into a coma and passed away at the hospital hours later. She died only a week after her 20th birthday.

“They say in a coma it’s less painful. I am very thankful that is how she died,” Dorothy says, tearfully.

The Johnsons were unable to attend Hannah’s funeral, but asked if they could put a pink budded rose in her hands. Attached to that rose was a card that read, on behalf of Nicole, “Thank you for giving me life and for sharing me with others who love me so much.”

The Larsons grieved the loss of a daughter, but because of God’s wonderful mercy, they didn’t lose a granddaughter. Today Nicole lives with the Larsons and attends a university in their city.

“I am so glad that my daughter gave this child life,” Dorothy says with a smile. “We don’t know what God is going to do with a life.”

* The names in this story have been changed.

ALYSEIA SMITH lives in Rockford, Ill.

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