Hannah Marie Manning is both my sister and my dearest friend. During the hardest parts of my life, she was always there to support me. If not for her I would not be the person that I am today. Her compassion and strength still continues to shape my perspectives. I owe so much to her love, and to the friendship that she graced me with.
In the weeks before Hannah went into surgery, she was very concerned about how I was feeling, what was going on in my life, and she wanted me to unload on her. Can you imagine? Here she was, battling with a life-threatening disease, and yet she was so deeply concerned about the petty day to day things that we all face at one point or another. But that was just who Hannah was. A loving and compassionate person every single day of her life, despite all odds.
The way she lived her life took courage. It required a lot of patience and understanding. The kind of patience only a wise person has. Although she is my younger sister I never looked at her as being younger. Despite the fact that I couldn't forget her age or her birthday if I tried, I always felt like she was older than she actually was. Her wisdom always amazed me. It was beyond her years. She often taught me lessons about life, that are lost on many adults.
Her wisdom spread to many areas of her life. Hannah was not only deeply appreciative of those who were close to her. She was also naturally forgiving, trusting, and patient with others. She would treat even those who had hurt her with respect. Even more inspiring was her own self-respect. As with any well rounded person, she made her share of mistakes, but she quickly learned from them. Following her experience she used self-control, and determination to lead her life in a positive direction. She was never one to do something careless or impulsive. And no one could influence her otherwise. *Even I couldn't convince her to do something she didn't want to do (although she of course could convince me to do pretty much anything).*
She truly lived by the advice she gave to those of us that were willing to accept it. She set an example to me in many ways. Her unconditional love made it possible for me to have love for myself. She taught me the value of self-respect, and the benefits of being kind to those who may be undeserving of such kindness.
Although Hannah showed so much maturity already, she was still blossoming as a woman. I watched her grow even more throughout last year. Some people in her position may have felt victimized and hopeless. But Hannah did not make excuses, or expect sympathy. Instead her eyes were set towards her future, and not once did she give up hope. Being that her disease was rare, she found herself explaining what she had both her family and healthcare professionals alike. Her life drastically changed in a matter of months, but she showed courage and bravery in the face of it all. Last year she faced many challenges, but she took control over her situation. She assumed many new responsibilities despite how alien or stressful they were. For this reason, I felt genuinely proud of her. A girl who used to be afraid of bees and needles became the bravest person I have yet to meet.
When I visited her in Indiana I saw how far she had come from the beginning. In Indiana I was with her during one of her routine parasynthesis procedures. Before she had the procedure done she explained to the doctor precisely how she wanted them to perform it. The doctors laughed, saying she was a pro. Because by this time she already knew more about the procedure than some of the doctors she had seen. Hannah told me that she considered being a nurse or a hospital technician because she believed her experience would be useful to people who were ill and she felt she could give them much needed comfort.
For someone who was sick, in pain, and constantly at the mercy of others, Hannah was unashamed. As her body changed, she still remained beautiful and confident. Her dignity, kindness, and humility never ceased to amaze me at her hardest point in life, and at her best. She never took one day for granted. Instead she pushed through, and was always giving to the end.
Even in sickness, her courage inspired those around her. With all of the changes she was going through, she invested so much of her time into her relationships. She changed each and every person who was close to her directly and indirectly. She brought us all closer together and taught us all about ourselves.
If not for the sudden onset of her illness, I believe Hannah would have gone on to do many great things. She still had so much left to teach those around her, and to accomplish for herself. She was more than just a kind soul. She was ambitious, driven, and motivated to learn and to create. Aside from her talents as an artist, she would also compose beautiful music on the piano.
Hannah lived her life to the fullest extent. Rarely would she pass up an opportunity to take a hike, go on a trip, meet new people, or try new things. To put it simply she was just a fun person to be around. I have countless unique experiences that I am blessed to say that I have shared with her.
Hannah was fun as well as deep. She was real and down to earth. She was someone who you could laugh with, and cry with. When she spoke to you, she always had something meaningful to say. Our conversations would last for hours, and yet I dreaded the inevitable hour of sleep or our parting that would bring them to an end.
To be close to someone who was so positive and thoughtful is a wonderful experience. Life can be lonely at times, but I have always felt completed. I never had a reason to feel like I was alone in the world, or misunderstood. Such a friendship is once in a lifetime. She is truly the best friend I have ever had and I feel very fortunate to have spent the time we did together.
I have not just learned one thing from Hannah. I owe so much to her, and I continue to learn from her life. We all share in the pain of the loss of a soul that touched all of us so deeply. The love that she had for us remained in her heart until the day of her passing, and so her love continues. Although physically gone, Hannah's beauty and impact on our hearts will live on.