for hayley: keeping my promise

for those who were there, for those who weren’t, these are the words i gave for my dear sister hayley dawn today. they are my final gift to her. i hope you enjoy them.

here’s the audio version:

if you have any special memories of hayley you’d like to share here, i would love to hear them. thank you all.

hi there. for those of you who might not know me, my name is ryan, and i am hayley’s oldest brother in-law. but to hayley, I was simply her brother.

thank you

on behalf of our family, i would like to start by thanking you all for joining with us to celebrate the life of our dear sister, daughter, niece, cousin, granddaughter and great granddaughter, hayley dawn hanowell. during this incredibly difficult time, your generosity, time, kind words and ceaseless prayer has been a ray of light in our lives. your support has been greater than we could ever ask for. so thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all you’ve done.

wedding toast promise

two years ago, i stood in a room just down the hall from here with hayley, as she helped me run through the toast i would be giving to celebrate her sister leann’s wedding. she held the notes, while i ran through it, and she grinned and nodded her head in agreement. as i finished, she told me leann would love it, and she asked me if i would talk at her wedding someday. i promised her i would.

realizing this week i would not have the opportunity to fulfill that promise, i asked hayley’s parents, tim and rhonda, if it would be all right if i spoke at hayley’s memorial service. i am so incredibly thankful they agreed.

june 11 / may 1

hayley was born to tim and rhonda on june 11, 1990. she was watched over by her two older sisters, jennifer and leann, and she was adored by her entire family.

hayley passed away peacefully on saturday, may 1, at 11:06 p.m., in the presence of her loving family. she was just 19 years old.

the phone call

five days earlier, on monday evening, we received a phone call encouraging us to come to the hospital to be with hayley, as she was not breathing and she was without a pulse when she arrived. fortunately, and we believe it was by God’s grace, the hospital staff was able to resuscitate her. however, she was still unconscious.

praying for a miracle

we spent the next several days at hayley’s bedside, praying for a miracle. for her to move her fingers, her toes or to open her eyes. we kept waiting for a miracle, but it never came. it was only after several days that we realized this was God’s miracle, that He had already revived our loving princess so that we could spend this time with her for several more days, so that we could hold her hand, so that we could talk with her, so that we could comb our fingers through her hair and kiss her forehead. and we are so incredibly thankful for that gift.

horrific nightmare

death is sad at 90. it is incredibly difficult at 50. but at 19, an unexpected death is a horrific nightmare of the worst possible sort. the kind you can’t wake up from, no matter how hard you try. even now, it doesn’t seem real. none of this does.

mourned well

with that being said, i want to tell you about the honor i had of spending those five days at hayley’s bedside with her family. and i want to tell you, they mourned well…

i had the privilege to see Hayley’s family come together during this time to worship their holy Creator. the same God who stitched together hayley dawn in her mother’s womb, even as she slowly left us. to see a father and mother sing songs of praise even as their daughter breathed her final breaths, that speaks volumes of their faith, and I am so incredibly honored to be a part of this family.

i can tell you this, God was glorified even in hayley’s death, because of this family’s faith.

enjoy her a little bit longer

we were blessed to hear favorite memories of hayley from friends and family over the past week. memories of what made her such a pleasure to be around. these memories helped us remember hayley, and to enjoy her a little bit longer.

we heard stories of her smile; that contagious grin, the kind that had the power to brighten up the darkest of days. we heard stories of hayley’s heart, and how she was always there for others during their time of need.

there for others

i remember going to a concert with hayley last summer, just the two of us. we had such a great time. the long drive provided lots of time to talk and catch up; and those memories are priceless. we didn’t get back until after midnight and, i didn’t find out about this until the next day, but after i dropped hayley off that night, she drove straight to be with her friend who was going through a very difficult time. to be by her side.

and she spent the entire night with her, and most of the next day, before going straight to work, without any sleep. so that she could be there for her friend. i was blown away when she told me that, but this is just one example of a time hayley put her own best interests aside for the sake of someone she loved.

beautifully humble

we went through tons of photos this past week. to put together slideshows and posters, and just to remember her. and photo after photo we found ourselves saying, “she was so beautiful…”

and you know what, the thing about hayley is that she was so incredibly humble. she was one of the prettiest girls in the room, but she didn’t act like it. she didn’t have to. everyone knew it.

mischievous side

and hayley had a mischievous side to her as well. she always did. you could see it in her smile. like she had either just finished doing something, or she knew she was about to do something, that would just drive you bananas. hayley was only 10 years old when i first started dating jennifer. she looked different back then; i can still picture her: this cute little girl, slightly pudgy, glasses, frizzy hair, but she was the same mischievous girl.

one of my favorite memories of hayley was when she was that age. it must’ve been the first time jen’s family had me over for dinner. i wasn’t talking much, it was still early on. and hayley was very quiet, the whole night she didn’t say much at all. but then, while we were all sitting around the table joking around after dinner, i spoke up to say something, and hayley immediately cut me off by saying, “you’re doing this (making her hand into a mouth and moving it as if it were talking), and i want you to do this (closing her hand-mouth).”…

we were all stunned. there was about five seconds where the breath was literally taken out of the room; we couldn’t believe that after not saying a word all night, she speaks up and says this to me! but that’s kind of the way things always were between us. she loved to give me a hard time, and i gave it right back. i loved that girl so much.

the journal

we heard a lot of stories about hayley this past week. we read the stories you wrote in her journal as we sat beside her bed each night in the hospital. we read stories of her selfless generosity, and how she was such an incredible giver. and even in her final days, hayley gave. to all of us.

she gave

hayley gave this community the opportunity to come together, to unite in prayer. more than 250 community members gathered this past saturday night, the night she passed away, to pray for her.

hayley gave her family the opportunity to share with others what their faith looks like in the face of the deepest, darkest loss.

hayley gave her sister leann the opportunity to do her hair, one last time. just like before all those school dances.

she gave ben the opportunity to get a few words in, for once.

she gave her oldest sister jen the opportunity to sing, at her bedside, to an audience of one.

she gave her parents the opportunity to share with others the incredible gift God blessed them with 19 years ago.

and she gave me the opportunity to share with others the love of Jesus Christ.

you are loved

i know hayley would want me to say something to you all, right now, so i will. i know she would want me to tell you that you are loved. even if you don’t think so, even if you feel all alone, you are not. not ever.

at your deepest, darkest moments, you have a God who cares for you more than you will ever know, and He is rooting for you, that you would turn to Him, rather than to drugs, alcohol, cutting or anything else that takes life, rather than gives it. that you would turn to Him, so that He can give you life.

our family is here

and i know hayley would want me to say this. if you are hurting, if you are suffering and don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to, our family is here for you. not because we are perfect, but because He is. not because we have it all figured out, but because, in Christ, we have the strength to face each day in the anticipation of one day worshiping Him face to face.

until that day, we seek to glorify Him in this place. and by loving you, we can share the love He has shown us. not because we deserve it, but because He is love, and because His desire is to show us all that love.

pray for you

and so, if you are hurting, and if you feel all alone, i would like to personally pray for you following this service. i’ll wait up here in front, and i’ll be here for as long as it takes. please come find me. this is something i would like to do for you, because i know it is something that would make my sister smile.

thank God

so, once again, from the bottom of our hearts, our family would like to thank you for your kind words, your support and, most of all, your prayers during this time. we will continue to need it for the days, weeks, months and even years to come. as we continue to grieve and heal from this pain. we have truly been blessed by your generosity. thank you. and thank God for giving us hayley.

10 thoughts on “for hayley: keeping my promise

  1. Ryan I don’t know you. We attend the same church and I have seen you but we have never met. I have to tell you though after reading your blog I feel deeply moved by it and almost feel like I know you personally. Your words have touched my heart and I was amazed by the things you said today.

    • toni,

      thanks so much. for taking the time to read these words. for your kind words. and for introducing yourself. i look forward to meeting you someday.

      ryan

  2. Ryan – I just read your words aloud to Josh because he was unable to attend Hayley’s service, and although it wasn’t you recreating it for him, it brought tears again to my eyes, as well as Josh. Your words touched every person in that church today, especially mine. Thank you for that. We will keep the ones closest to Hayley in our prayers.

    • tracy,

      thank you. your kind words of support over the past week have meant so much. thank you for sharing these words with josh. and thank you, most of all, for your prayers. we need those so very much. every day.

      ryan

  3. I had to read again what you said at Hayley’s funeral, especially with her birthday approaching. I am still grieving and cry every day that she is not alive. Thanks for you loving words.

    • laurie,

      i’m so thankful to hear you’re revisiting these words in your grief. thank you for that. i hope they bring you even a small amount of comfort, and i pray that He would bring you more.

      ryan

  4. That was the most beautiful eulogy I’ve ever heard. I am terribly sorry for your loss. By the way, my last name is Hanowell, too- I actually found this site while Googling my last name. Could we be related?

    God Bless
    -Hanowell

    • thank you for taking the time to read these words, and for your own kind words in response. they are very much appreciated.

    • amanda,

      thank you so much for your honest words. they are very much appreciated.

      we think of you often, and we hope you are well.

      ryan

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