Maria Housden shares: “The truest measure of a life is not in length, but the fullness in which it is lived” (6). This quote goes along perfectly with the heartwarming and heartbreaking story of young Hannah Martell as she handles her illness with positivity while teaching those around her valuable life lessons along her journey. While reading Maria’s recount of her difficult journey, my emotions were greatly affected, my perspective on life transformed, and I was awed by the acts of by others after Hannah had passed. Reading Hannah’s Gift stirred up many emotions in my heart.
Much of Maria Housden’s story was heartwarming but sad as I felt as if I was experiencing her journey right there with her. The memories Maria shared about Hannah left me either smiling, laughing, or wiping tears of sadness and heartbreak off of my cheeks. I was filled with joy and amusement as Maria shared many funny memories of Hannah, such as choosing her showy red shoes to demanding to wear them in the operating room. Within the next few pages my emotions would shift, requiring me to blink the tears out of my eyes as the curious 3-year-old questioned life and shared memorable moments with her mother.
Life through a 2-3 year old’s perspective can’t help but make a person smile. To her life was simple and she asked such simple questions attached to such adult complex answers. When Hannah asked “Mommy, do children ever die? ” and “Mommy, why am I not going to have a birthday after four? ” the questions brought tears to my eyes, as they would be difficult for anyone, especially a parent, to hear (54, 72). Yet, Hannah acted as if they were just basic questions. If I were her mother, I wouldn’t know how to respond initially since questions like these require serious and sad answers, but all Hannah needed was an honest answer.
Once she received the response, she internalized it and let it go, not worrying about it anymore. My perspective of life changed as I found value in the lessons Hannah had taught her mother. One of the first critical lessons Maria learned occurred after they found out Hannah was ill when Maria realized she must drop all other priorities in her life to focus on Hannah’s health. I directly related myself to her words “I had been measuring my worth by being involved, important, and indispensable” (23). All through my life, I realized I have been doing the same.
I always felt the need to be involved in as much as possible in order to feel important or looked up to by someone. Maria and Hannah taught me to focus on what truly matters to me and not worry about the thoughts of others in order to fulfill that gap in my heart. Additionally, after reading this book, I was inspired to live positively and more in the moment. Little Hannah proved that you can bring good out of the most horrible situations. I admire the way in which she found positivity in all her experiences with her illness and coping with death.
As she was facing her death, she wasn’t afraid to ask her mom about death and where you go when you die. Even in her last moments, she wasn’t allowing the situation to bring her down. Around the time of Hannah’s greatest struggle in the end this is how Maria described her daughter as she gazed at Hannah’s reflection in the mirror: “I knew Hannah was more than this frail, sick child I was holding; part of her was beyond this suffering, in that stillness I could feel but could not see” (159). No matter how bad things, I have learned to take things as they come and focus on the moment I am in and make the most out of it.
As I face a challenge, I know that staying positive will help me succeed. I was also amazed by the parts in the story of people doing strange things through Hannah after she passed. Two specific memories after Hannah passed away had a strong impact on me as I read. The first was when Maria received the woven rug from a stranger saying the rug was a gift from Hannah. The story of Hannah continuously ran through the woman’s mind, seeming as though it was a sign from God and message from Hannah to her family saying she was with them.
I was confused at first since it seemed quite strange that this message was received via a random stranger to Maria, but as she described the details woven into the rug, my confusion turned to awe. The angel woven into the rug resembled specific details of Hannah and included the pink rose resembling the middle name Hannah chose for her new baby sister at the time. The second memory was when Madelaine exclaimed she played with Hannah in heaven before she was born as they passed the pink house Hannah once claimed she would own one day.
This was very heartwarming and awe inspiring as well since they had never discussed Hannah liking this house before. It sparked my fascination in how a child’s mind operates and revealed the presence of God working in the mind of a child. The story of Hannah’s Gift will always stick in my mind. Maria Housden has sparked my interest in and willingness to help a child like Hannah and a family like the Martells. Many of the lessons Maria learned from her daughter were ones I needed to hear myself.