There are countless stories about little girls and their families. However, as you read this one, you will realize that this story and this girl is one of a kind.
My story begins as most stories do. Hanna was a precious little girl, loved by all that had the privilege of meeting her. I remember a time when she was six years of age. I mentioned to my wife of how uncommon it was that Hanna bestowed her smile towards others. This smile would bring peace to a troubled soul.
I was a roofer. Needless to say, each day was strenuous, robbing one of strength, physically as well as mentally. My Hanna, my little girl, would renew the strength that was lost. Her statement to me each day as I entered our house became a God-send.
“Well, daddy? Did God hold His umbrella over you today? He protects you from the sun’s heat. He gives you strength to do whatever you must do.” After giving me a hug, she would go to her room. She would not come out until dinner. She would bounce out of her room skipping and humming a song with that golden smile. As she sat down beside her mother Lisa, she would reach across the table to take my hand as well as her mother’s hand. Hanna thanked the Lord for the food that we were about to eat.
“Father,” she would begin. “I ask you to bless this food, this gift of food that you have given us. Bless my mother for the time she put into preparing this meal for us. We love you Lord. Amen.”
After we finished the meal, us three would wash the dishes and save any food that was left. Afterwards, we would watch television. Hanna would move from my lap to her mother’s lap with her green eyes expressionless until she spoke. “Daddy, I do not like this show.”
She would get up and give me a stern glance, then one towards her mother. She would quickly skip to her room with her long brown hair bouncing with each skip. Many years passed before Lisa and I understood the look of disgust that we often saw during one of these times. Yes, she was a special girl endowed from God with the ability to reason. She could see things that others could not see or understand. I was always amazed at her gift and the wisdom that came with it. You too will see this as I tell you more about my little girl and of how things went horribly wrong. Oh God…I miss that child.
I miss her flowers too. She had flowers and plants throughout our house. Hannah grew a passion for God’s miraculous plants at the age of ten. Walking home from school each day she allowed a visit to a plant farm owned by a kind man named Willy Wills. Alone and in his late sixties, he would accept any assistance offered to him. Hanna would go into Willy’s store each day. She would buy a soft drink, a Mug’s root beer, and a pack of chips. As she finished her drink and chips, she entered the nursery to admire his flowers. Mr. Willy saw her devotion to life, people, and plants. He put her to work. Which consisted of watering and re-planting some of his plants and flowers. However, this was not without pay. Besides a few dollars, he would give Hanna flowers to take home. This was not a bad exchange for a ten-year-old child. She put these flowers in the front of our house and on the patio.
Her favorite was a, “Bird-of Paradise”. You know, as I look back on this, it seemed as if she would talk to this plant and wait for it to reply. Perhaps it did reply. At times she would look at the plant and smile, other times she would look at it and cry. This was always a puzzle to me. It seemed as is every time she cried, her friend Joey would show up at our door.
One day, Hanna was standing in front of the flower, talking on the house phone. This was her fourteenth birthday. Lisa, her mother had spent most of the day preparing food for Hanna’s party. The party began with her friends enjoying the food and games. The boys fought a battle of touch football while the girls sought competition in badminton, except for Hanna. After talking on the phone, she would pace from the front door to the patio. She would walk onto the front porch, look down the street, and then return through the front towards the rear. As she paraded back and forth, her look of disgust told me that something was wrong.
Margie met Hanna at the patio door and asked, “can we talk later?” “About what? I don’t have time. What’s wrong?” “Not now. Later. Come on Hanna, I need you on my team.” Hanna offered no reply. She turned around and walked toward the front. With a disappointed look, Margie returned to the back yard. I heard the front door slam as Hanna stepped onto the front porch. This time I followed her.
Hanna was crying as I opened the front door. She was upset and looking down the street. I knew from past experiences not to ask a lot of questions. I knew that she would talk to me when she was ready. I waited. Moments later, she spoke.
“Dad,” she said through those teary green eyes, “Joey isn’t coming, is he?” Of all the times to not have been watchful of my daughter, this had to be my worst. I didn’t notice that Joey was not at the party. This bothered me. Usually, I do not get to talk to my Hanna. It was always her and Joey. He stayed at our house more than he did at his own house. They were constantly together sitting on our old swing hours and hours at a time. If they were not talking about school, they were trying to change the universe. They had grown up together with only two months difference in age and they were very close. They had made a pact that once they were of age and could, that they would marry each other. I never openly tried to listen to their conversations, but there were times when I wanted to join in their discussion. One time was on a Saturday afternoon.
I was raking some leaves in the back yard and as I glanced towards our swing, I saw that Joey was crying. Hanna was holding his hand and gently pulled him to her shoulder…Hanna would release him and raise her arms towards the sky. I knew then, that my Hanna was praying. Of course, this was common to Hanna. I cannot tell you what she said to God, but I do know that as she prayed, Joey’s crying became less and less. This was not a solitary incident. Many months passed giving witness to these sessions of consolation. Later that day, I asked Hanna if Joey was all right. She replied, that he and his family were going through a difficult time. She told me not to worry, so I moved on to a project that I needed to finish.
Yes, Hanna was an amazing young girl. Needless to say, she gave her mother Lisa and I a pride that few parents can claim. All of us could take lessons from her in the means and ways that she handled the varied details of life.
I could not answer her question. It was unusual that Joey was not at this party. It was the first party that he missed in their fourteenth year together. Something was wrong. I decided to go to Joey’s house to find the answer. Hanna stopped me, saying that she would call him again. “He is in trouble. I know Daddy. I know what is wrong. His da…” She stopped in mid-sentence. Her expression as her mood changed allowed me to see something in my little girl that I had not seen before. Fear! She moved towards the phone as if life itself was at stake. She dialed the number awaiting the person that she called to answer.
“Hello. Mr. Watts, may I speak to Joey again?”
“No Hanna, you may not. I told you to stop calling. You are his problem. He is grounded.
I am tired of hearing about the great Hanna. It’s Hanna this or Hanna that, the great
family of Hanna. You have caused us enough problems. Do not call back here. Joey has
nothing to say to you.”
“Please, Mr. Watts, you do not have to do this. It is just a birthday party. Joey should be here. He has never missed one of my parties. He is my best friend. Please allow him to come to my house.”
“Girl, I told you that he is grounded. He may be your best friend, but you are his biggest problem. All we hear about is you and your perfect family and how great your dad Rusty is. Girl, I am Joey’s dad, not Rusty. Do you understand? You better tell Rusty that, or I will.”
Moments passed in silence. Mr. Watts’s impatience was heard through his labored breathing over the phone. Hanna, after saying a prayer to God, spoke.
“Mr. Watts, may I talk to you in person?”
“Hanna, what will it take to make you understand? I have nothing… Wait a second, Yeah you come on down here. You need to hear this face to face. Yeah, come on miss perfect.”
“Thank you, Mr. Watts. I will be there in a few minutes” Hanna hung the receiver back on the wall base of the phone. She turned around and walked up to the small, round table that was home to her Bird-of Paradise. She stood there, staring at the very large plant. It had become the largest plant in the house. Soon, it would need a larger table.
As difficult as it was to stand down, I did for Hanna’s sake. Even if I asked her what was wrong, she would not answer. Do not think that Hanna was disrespectful towards me for not answering, she had her own way of correcting difficulties. She had been correct this far, so I stood back. Her devout faith in God had stood the test of time. She proved this on a daily basis. She was a pleasure to listen to as her knowledge and her application of the same surpassed most of the adults that we knew. My little girl was one of a kind and this demonstrated in her brilliance when she would approach Joey’s house.
Hanna mumbled something to her plant, turned towards the front door, and stopped in front of me as she began to open the door. As her green eyes met mine, I could once again see the fear resident in her soul. I didn’t say a word. As she reached for the doorknob, she gave a nod of self-assurance. Opening the door, she turned to me and asked if I would apologize to her friends and that she would return in a few minutes. I said that I would.
As bad as I wanted to go with her, I didn’t. I knew that she would be all right, because I knew that the Lord was with her. She didn’t need ole daddy with her. The Lord said that He would never leave her, or forsake her. I believe Him. She knew it as fact.
As she walked down the street towards Joey’s, she waved to me. It was hard to stand back when my child was hurting, but it was for the best, because I knew it would promote growth and confidence. I stood on the front porch until I saw her walk into Joey’s yard, and I walked back into the house.
Mr. Watts was waiting as she approached the house. He stood there angrily with his arms folded, staring at Hanna as if he hated the sight of her. She walked up to the porch and stopped at the bottom step. Hanna stood there silent with her head bowed to the ground.
Mr. Watts was the first to speak. “Well, miss perfect, do I roll out a red carpet or do I bow down to you?” Hanna offered no reply. Instead, to God and to herself she began to pray. “Father, it’s Hanna again. Your Holy Spirit and my mentor has taught me that if I have a problem or a care that I cast that care on you, for you care for me. The apostle Peter also said that in his first book, 1Peter5: 7. Time after time you have shown me truth and how we are to reach your children if they are hurting. Father, I do not know the heart of Mr. Watts as you do. You have shown me through Joey, why he acts as he does. It is you, Father, that knows the true heart of man, not I. However, you have shown me the pain that vexes Mr. Watts; His fear is his helplessness in their situation. This is why I come to you for your leadership.
Father, it is not just my party or that Joey didn’t go to it. There will be more parties. It is Joey’s family that has me here at his house. Joey is my best friend. You have allowed us to grow up together. We are fourteen years of age now. What involves him, involves me. Father, I see and feel their pain, but how do I talk to Mr. Watts without taking the little pride and self- esteem that he has left? I love Joey and his family as if they were mine. I want to help them Father, but how do I do this? Father please, speak through me by your Holy Spirit. Tell Mr. Watts only what you know will help them. Father, they are falling apart. Father, I stand in your will. Lead me through this, for their sakes. They are good people. At this time they are lost. Help me find them. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Mr. Watts had not moved while Hanna stood there. His anger grew more intense as he stared down on her. He could no longer control himself. Before he could speak, the door behind him slammed very hard. Mr. Watts jerked around. It was Joey.
“Get your tail back in the house. You are grounded. Get in there, now”
Joey did not stop. “Hanna,” he yelled as he raised his arms to hug her. She raised hers in response and started up the steps to meet him. Mr. Watts stepped in between the two of them. Raising his right hand. He drew back and backhanded Joey in the mouth, slamming him against the wall. As Joey collapsed face down onto the porch, Hanna leaped and landed on top of Joey to protect him from his dad. As Hanna covered Joey, Joey hollered to his dad to leave them alone Mr. Watts had drawn his leg back to kick Joey. In his moment of rage, he kicked Hanna. She screamed in pain as she clinched Joey tighter. Mr. Watts drew back to kick again. He stopped as Hanna cried out.
“Father, forgive Mr. Watts. He is not himself right now. He does not realize what he is doing.”
“John,” the voice hollered. “Stop! What is wrong with you? Stop hurting those children. Hanna has done nothing to you. What has Joey done? God John! It is just a party. He just wanted to be with his friend, Hanna. Isn’t this bad enough without you hurting them?”
John lowed his leg to turn towards the door. His wife was returning to the bed they had set up in their living room. He watched her as she laid back down. A moment later, it seemed as if all life had left his body. He dropped down onto his knees and began crying. Through the tears Mr. Watts, told Hanna that he was sorry. “ Joey,” he cried, “ Joey, I am sorry. Help me.”
Hanna rolled over onto the porch. She held her side as she tried to raise up. Joey rose up onto his knees. “Hanna,” he said. His mood and expression grew intense as he leaned over to Hanna. Joey lifted her blouse just enough to see that she had the impression of a shoe print on her side. He lowed her blouse and took Hanna into his arms. They hugged each other as Joey stroked her long, brown hair.
“Hanna, I’m sorry. You should not have been involved in this. You mean so…” He could not finish the sentence. He choked back tears and pain, not for himself but for this girl that he loved. His own father hurt that girl. With a look that could kill, he jumped onto his feet. He walked over to his dad and stood over him, tightening his fist as he drew back. He was going to strike his dad in the back of the head. As he stepped into strike, Hanna cried out, “No Joey. That will not help. Do not hit your dad. Please, for me don’t do it.”
She was trying to get up on her feet. She did as she grabbed Joey’s arm to pull him back from his dad. At first, Joey resisted. The more she tried, the more he pulled on her. Holding her side, grimaced in pain, she fell to the floor. Joey relaxed his stance as he turned to lift Hanna. He held her in his arms, still focusing on his dad and what he had done to Hanna. Hanna kissed him on his cheek telling him to forgive his dad. God does not want you to hurt your earthly father. Before Joey could reply, he was summoned by his mother.
“Joey! Joey, get in here,” his mother called out from her bed. As Joey released Hanna and turned to go inside, John his dad, looked up at him. “Joey,” he said. “Hit me hard, I deserve it Joey. Hanna, tell him.” Joey walked into the house to his mother’s side.
Hanna looked down at the broken man that was still on his knees. She sat down, in spite of the pain. She faced this desperate man that had kicked her in anger. “Mr. Watts,” she began. “I know that you do not like me or my family. I do realize why you feel the way that you do and why there is anger and bitterness inside of you. Sir, I would not offend you for anything. However, I am not a know-it-all and truthfully, I cannot say that I know how you feel in your heart. What I do know is what our Lord allows me to know. Mr. Watts, God sees your pain. He knows that you feel defeated and that you feel that you are losing all that you love. God knows that to you, you feel that the cancer your wife has is your fault and that you feel that she is being punished for something that you think you have done wrong. You believe this so much, that you run from it.
You stay on the road, driving as much as you are allowed, not so much for the money, but because you are having a difficult time facing the illness of your wife. When you come home, you only see what you had left behind. You see your wife of many years, sickly, weak, and the doctors tell you that she will die. You see Joey staying at my house more than him staying with his mother. Both of you run. Both of you hope that it will be better when you return. Joey sees his mother dying. He sees you giving up on her. Mr. Watts, he is afraid of losing his mother and afraid of losing you.
This is one of his reasons for staying at my house as much as he does. When he is at our house with me, he does not think about it so much. Just like you do not think about her when you are on the road. I’ll tell you Mr. Watts, even then at times, Joey sits in our swing, crying. Yes sir, he is hurting too. He hurts because you do. He hurts for his mother and her pain. Sir, you nor Joey can run or hide from this, hoping that it will go away. Each time that you leave, you take something with you that you do not realize. You take your wife’s hope, her husband, her lover, and her friend. You take Joey’s daddy, his friend, his buddy, his youth and his strength. He loves you just as he loves his mother, your wife. How do you think she feels when the only people that spend time with her, is Home Health? The two people that she loves the most avoid her. She understands why you are gone as much as you are. It still hurts her. She sends Joey to us so that he can have some form of childhood that she believes she does not provide. Sir, she hurts more than you know. Not so much from her illness, but from the fact that her family has fallen apart and giving up on her. That she believes she no longer makes either of you happy.
Sir, do not become jealous or angry at my family or me. We share our house and lives with Joey, because we are willing to help in anyway that we can. Right now, this is all that we can do. He is not avoiding you. He thinks that he is in your way and that you do not want him around you. You feel that he sees you as a failure. Both of you are wrong.
Sir, you, Joey and your wife must meet this head-on. Our heavenly Father is here with you three. Although you have denied Him access to this problem, He has not left you. He waits to show you His love. His hand is stretched towards you. Reach out Mr. Watts and take it. He is able to hold all of you up. He loves doing the impossible.
This anger. Can you not see what it is doing to you and what it has done? You stuck your son. You hurt him. You striking him caused an anger in him that I have never seen. It overwhelmed him. He was going to strike back in the same way that you struck him. He reacted in the same manner that you reacted. You cannot allow this to lay hold of Joey. As for you kicking me, I know that it was not intentional. However, I thank God that it was me instead of Joey. I do not count. Joey does count. I will recover in a few days, but it was worth it. Joey will recover. I ask that you forgive yourself. I forgave you, as I am sure that Joey has forgiven you. God loves you as He does your wife and son. Mr. Watts, I too, love you. He will forgive you if you ask Him.”
Hanna had said all that needed to be said. She attempted to raise herself up to her feet. As he stood up, Mr. Watts offered his hand to Hanna. Without hesitation, she took it. As she hollered bye to Joey, John helped her down the four steps leading off of the porch. Her walk was slow and easy as she began the short walk to her house. She stepped onto the street, stopped, turned around and told Mr. Watts that everything would be all right.
That’s my Hanna. She was always concerned about the welfare of others rather than herself. She did not get to play any games at her party. She sat, talking and nursing her side. Joey came in soon after Hanna. He stayed by her the entire time during the time of the party. Hanna never mentioned anything about the incident. John soon came to our house. He told what he had done to Joey and to Hanna. He told that I could press charges against him for the assault and that he deserved it. He offered to drive himself to the police station.
I told John that it took a brave man to openly admit to what he had done, and that jail was not an option. Hanna wasn’t concerned and assured me that it was a mistake, so I was not concerned. Instead of beating the man down for hurting my Hanna, John and I sat down and over a cup of coffee, we talked about his wife, about Joey and Hanna. We discussed his job as we finished the coffee.
The next two years were good. John turned his problems over to the Lord as he received his salvation. He became a driver for the roofing company where I worked. He was at his house by six p.m. each workday. He was off on every weekend. He and Joey rebuilt their father-son relationship. John’s wife has been in remission almost two years. Joey and Hanna were set to marry when they became twenty-one years of age. Yes, those two years were good. That is up to Hanna’s sixteenth birthday. It was the year of 2001.That’s when everything went terribly wrong. My life was changed forever. My wife had a nervous breakdown. Joey almost lost his sanity. He did not eat or sleep well. Hanna… well, I guess that you could say that she is still my little girl, but not in a literal sense.
Her sixteenth birthday party was over. All of her friends had left. Joey had to go to his job at the burger place. Hanna wanted to try out her the gift that her mother and I had bought her. We had purchased her a SUV. She was thrilled. Now she could haul her friends around. She and I got in the vehicle, her driving, of course. We decided to drive towards the country. She fastened her seatbelt. I did not. Didn’t like the things. I know that it is a law to wear them, but I just didn’t.
Once we left the city limits, I reminded her about the winding roads and sharp turns and told her to always stay on your side of the road. We were having a wonderful time, riding and talking. We came up on dogleg turn. As she approached this turn, a log truck came out of the turn, on our side. Hanna swerved to her right to avoid the truck. There was nowhere to go. The truck broadsided us on Hanna’s side. The sudden collision threw me through the windshield. You do not realize how big tires are, until you see them moving up close. The SUV went into a roll. Hanna was still inside as it turned over and over. I was helpless to do anything. I laid across a stump unable to move. On the sixth roll, it crashed into a huge pine tree, on the driver’s side. All that I could do was call out to Hanna. She was pinned in the mangled, twisted mast of metal. I could see her. Covered in her own blood. I tried to crawl off of the stump, but I could not move, I just screamed for my little girl.
The driver of the log truck used his cell phone to call 911 as he ran down to Hanna. I know that my girl was broken and bleeding. Ten minutes later, help arrived. A couple of paramedics came to me. “Don’t worry about me,” I said. “Take care of my girl, I can lay here. Help her.” It took thirty minutes to extract what was left of Hanna. God! My girl. My precious Hanna. I still love her and I always will. Her mother recovered slowly, Joey, after several months, met life’s terms and became successful. He and his wife, of whom I knew well, took a local business and enhanced the product line. Now, the two of them sell nationwide.
God! That was ten years ago. Time does move on. My Hanna. I miss her green eyes and the way they would glare. I miss her long brown hair. My beautiful little girl. I miss her flowers. Can you imagine the flowers that she has now, from God’s own garden? Yes, I can see her holding all of her favorites. Close your eyes for a moment. Can you see the red ones? The white, yellow, blue, and lavender flowers? Can you see them? They are all as beautiful as she is. Beautiful flowers from her florist and plant farm. Flowers that Hanna and Joey are placing on my grave.
Prequel to Volume 1: Lucille Springs
Unto Jared’s mother and my deceased wife, Beth, this story and Lucille Springs is dedicated to her.
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