The mother of a three-year-old who died of cancer tells her story, from dancing delight at a pair of red patent-leather shoes to the last breath at home, surrounded by her family.
As Housden remembers it, Hannah was an extraordinary child: bright, exuberant, joyful, unafraid of either life or death. Nor did the doctors who treated her intimidate Hannah, who in the hospital before her first operation insisted that she be allowed to wear the new red shoes to surgery. The doctors submitted. No wimpy Jell-O and mashed potatoes post-op, she commanded; I want pizza. Up came a tray of pizza and chocolate ice cream. Asking for what you want is okay, the author learned from her daughter, and that was only one of the lessons. Another was that telling the truth is the best way to confront fear and pain. Housden tells the truth in this chronicle of Hannah’s last year filled with tears, suffering, and anger, but also with laughter, hope, and love. She organizes the lessons from Hannah’s life into five sections: Truth, Joy, Faith, Compassion, and Wonder. Each is divided into short chapters, most of them anecdotes about this remarkable little girl’s courage and resilience, but also about struggle of her family, including her father and six-year-old brother, to accept Hannah’s illness and death. Housden recounts the hospital stays, the tests, the painful, debilitating treatments, from chemotherapy to bone-marrow transplants. But there is also an exhilarating trip to Disney World, where Hannah met Cinderella and crowed to her brother, “You see, Will . . . I told you she was real.” Religion and spirituality also play a part; the hard question of how God could let this happen to a child is asked, if not answered.
Unsentimental for the most part, this portrait of a short, joyous life can be comforting to anyone who has lost a child.