Perspective -- more than just a byword

commentDecember 31, 2011 

I know there are columns and lists and broadcasts and Facebook posts and tweets of the top 10, most important, most whatever stories of the past year.

Reflecting on 2011 gives me whiplash more than most years: Grieving with my best friend when she lost her mother. Meeting people I've admired more than half my life. Watching, as it happened, the tsunami unleash its hell on Japan. Catching more rainbow trout than I'd ever dreamed. Coming face to face with my mortality courtesy of a charging grizzly. Flying into the crater of Mount Katmai. Riding the legislative roller coaster in Juneau. Putting up with a gerrymandered redistricting plan. The epic failure of the current Congress and the pathetic, insane clown posse that comprised the GOP debates.

Osama is dead and Kim Kardashian is divorced. Guess who got more news coverage? I could write an entire column about each of my reflections, but that's not where my thoughts take me as 2011 winds down.

For me personally, I can sum it up in one word: perspective.

During this introspective time of year, I look high and low for lessons learned and lessons missed.

I met Hannah seven years ago. She was a year older than my daughter but they shared Girl Scouts and school. During swim lessons, I spent time with her mother. Hannah always seemed to have a book in her hands and some perfectly delivered dry line to drop in my direction -- one that would keep me laughing and shaking my head all week.

Hannah was born with a heart defect that prevented her from swimming with her sister.

She had the best eyelashes ever. She was a giant flirt. She was the peacekeeper in a pre-adolescent troop of girls.

Why? Because she had perspective.

If you knew Hannah, you tended to deny her condition. Not in an intellectual way. She was smaller, it took her longer to do things and her fingertips were always blue from a lack of circulating blood. But her heart seemed so intact when it came to her relationships with a loving family and doting friends. It didn't make sense. How could this girl with such a big heart, who loved so big, need a transplant?

In early spring, we got word of a donor for Hannah's heart. I knew what that meant. Another child's family had, in their worst moments of pain, decided to give the gift of life to another, in this case to our dear Hannah. How they could reach through their grief of death to give life was beyond me.

Again, perspective.

Hannah got a new heart for her 16th birthday. Her mother posted updates and we waited and prayed.

A lung infection set in and Hannah's fight was soon lost.

The Girl Scouts that Hannah had presided over, along with their parents, showed up at Hannah's home days before her family returned from the hospital at Stanford, where they had watched over her for months.

The lawn was mowed. In the front yard, flowers were planted in the shape of a heart. We dusted and cleaned and stocked the refrigerator. There weren't any badges or stars to earn. It was just a way to love her family and grieve for Hannah. Sometimes a hard thing is just a hard thing.

It's all perspective.

In looking back over the year, the one thing that makes me want to be better in 2012 is the gift of knowing Hannah. Her fragility was more obvious than most, but we all break at some point of pressure.

My wish for this year, is to walk across a bridge I've burned, love with no breaks, leave notes to strangers urging them to stay strong, remember that old people had a first kiss, and try my hardest to have a heart as strong as Hannah's.


Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM/95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. on KYUR Channel 13.

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