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Hannah Grace---What a Friend


I am remembering Hannah, my imaginary friend this morning. I remember Hannah was neither a boy nor a girl. I called Hannah ‘he’ sometimes and ‘she’ other times. Hannah had dark hair and yellow eyes. His skin luminous, perfect. He was the same size as me and loved being with me. Hannah was my first friend outside family. I had no friends in our mountain neighborhood. I didn’t attend preschool or daycare other than for a few weeks one summer, but not long enough to make friends with my fellow preschoolers.

An extra plate was always set at the table for Hannah. She sat next to me. I think we put food on her plat for most meals. It wasn’t important to me if Hannah ate but that she was with me. Would pray a prayer from the plate hanging above the table.

“Thank you for the world so sweet.

Thank you for the food we eat.

Thank you for the birds that sing.

Thank you, God for everything.”

My family didn’t go to church, so this was my only religious ritual in those years.

No matter where I was or what I was doing, Hannah was there. I remember sitting next to a young peony rose in our back yard. The young plant looked like a cluster of palm trees to my young eyes, so of course, that spot had to be “Gilligan’s Island”. Gilligan’s Island was a TV show about a group of people marooned on an island. All the ants crawling around the base of the tiny palm trees were The Skipper, Gilligan, The Professor, Mary Anne, Ginger, and Mr. & Mrs. Howell. Hannah and I watched these ants on this imaginary island for what seemed like hours. Hannah listened as I created these stories in my mind.

Hannah slowly disappeared over time. As Hannah was disappearing I was learning more about this God we prayed to at meals. The one who made the world so sweet and the birds that sang. At Christmas we had a clay figurine of his son Jesus as a baby in a manger. Mama told me that’s what Christmas is about. I think Hannah was still with me when Mama explained the meaning of Christmas but soon after that memory, my memories of Hanna fade.

One summer day Mama helped my sister and me paint a set of nightstands handed down from our Mamaw. Well, Mama did all the painting but when the paint was all dry she wrote our names on each of our nightstands so we would know which was which. My sister who is three years younger may remember this differently, but I remember Mama taking time to teach us to spell our names to tell us that Jesus loves us, to sing Jesus loves me with us. I believe that is the moment Hannah faded out for good. At that moment, as well as any preschooler can I realized that Jesus loves me, Cynthia Mae Owenby (my given name mom wrote on my nightstand) and is with me all the time.

Looking ack on his with the adult eyes of my mind, I believe Hannah was Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Holy One with me; guiding me; and living with me. When Mama told me about Jesus I began to understand my best friend who we called my imaginary friend Hannah on another level. He was revealing more of himself to me. Jesus became my best friend and I wanted to know more.

Perhaps here is a good place to share that in the Bible, the name Hannah means grace, unmerited favor. I did nothing to warrant this friendship with Hannah. She entered my life and I as I learned more about her/him, I wanted to know more.

Shortly after Hannah faded, my Papaw died. I loved sitting under the maple tree on the corner of our front yard with him and watch the freight trains pass by in front of the mountains across the highway. Sometimes he would give me the change in his pocket to put in my Tiger bank. Not long after Papaw died, I went to sit under that tree with him. I was alone but my

friend Hannah was there beside me. Jesus was with me. I’m not sure I knew it was Jesus at the time, but I remember the feeling of my friend being with me.

I found some coins under the maple tree that day. Perhaps Papaw dropped them the last time we sat there, but on that day, I believed Jesus put them there. He’s performed so many other miracles in my life since then, maybe he did place those coins there. No matter how the coins got there, I was not alone. My young heart was comforted by the presence of my Friend and the memory of my Papaw.

A year or two later, when I was just old enough to read well, I got an organ for Christmas. It came with a little songbook of hymns. I matched the letters and numbers on the pages to the letters and numbers on my little electric organ, learning to sing some of those hymns. I sung ‘Faith of our Fathers’, ‘Rock of Ages’, ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ and yes ‘Jesus Loves Me’. My theology and understanding of God began to be formed. The lyrics of these songs taught me more about this friend Jesus who loves me. An insatiable hunger to know more drew me to a lifelong journey with Jesus by my side.

I wonder where you have encountered Jesus on your journey but maybe didn’t realize it at the time. Tell me about your Hannah Grace, your Papaw, your stories of encountering Jesus on your life journey.

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