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Hannah Louise Canavan

January 26, 1997 - October 30, 2002

Angel Wings at age 5 years and 9 months


Flowers in the Shade - by Clara Simpson

There are flowers that grow in the silence and bloom unseen in the shade,

But the Master who walks in His garden knows all that His hands have made;

He has placed them there for a purpose, to beautify and to cheer,

And their quiet fragrant service to the Master’s heart is dear 

Hannah was a flower such as these. Born with a brain malformation known as polymicrogyria, a life limiting condition with profound disability, she brought beauty and cheer to a world that often measures perfection in strictly tangible ways. She sent strong roots out into the community and drew sustenance from those parts of it which transcend worldly definitions. A beautiful little girl with soft curls, Hannah had a delightful smile and a wonderful laugh. She was most definitely a ‘people person’ and was happiest when held close and rocked gently in the arms of her loved ones. However, it was no secret that she loved cuddles from anyone who was ready and willing to provide them. Her gentle spirit captured hearts everywhere she went, and all who took the time to engage with her were blessed by her ability to make them smile.


Although non verbal, Hannah made it very clear what she was feeling by the strength and tone of her vocalizations, and those who knew her well quickly learned how to respond. Of course, the best response in most situations was a cuddle.


Hannah experienced the world very much from a sensory perspective. Touch, hearing and movement were her keys to engaging with people around her and with her environment. For example, she loved the sensation of dizziness from spinning her around in circles a few times, or the feeling of the wind in her face when somebody would push her fast in her wheelchair. Cortical vision impairment meant that Hannah could not process vision in a meaningful way, therefore auditory stimulation was extremely important for her, and it became a favorite activity with family, friends and carers to make sounds with whatever objects or materials were available. Naturally, this was stimulating for all involved and everyone would benefit from the interaction in different ways. Hannah especially enjoyed music for both stimulation and relaxation, and she would cry out if it stopped while soothing her to sleep. Loud noises such as a bursting balloon, a slamming door or dishes crashing in the kitchen would make her laugh, and she would smile at the sound of water filling the bathtub. Oh, how she loved her baths. Occasionally when she was unsettled, she was taken in her wheelchair to a busy intersection nearby, as the apparently entertaining sounds of cars, trucks and motorcycles would calm her down and amuse her, sometimes to the point of giggling. Hannah’s many responses to sensory input were a gift to the world, teaching those around her to appreciate the small things often missed in busy daily life. A sound here. A scent there. A puff of wind. A warm hug. Hannah gave life lessons in the importance of living in the moment, of just appreciating life.


On a larger scale, Hannah challenged not only individuals but entire organizations to consider their service delivery to children with special needs and their families. Regardless of experience or expertise, hospice and hospital staff alike were challenged by Hannah’s unique presentation. Chronic constipation, a variety of seizures, breath holding, insomnia, inconsolable tears, reflux, tube feeds and ketogenic diet were, among other things, daily challenges in Hannah’s life and anyone who was caring for her in any capacity needed to be able to rise to the challenge, or quickly learn how. As a consequence, many other children with special needs, and their families, will now benefit from the knowledge and experiences of those who lived and worked closely with Hannah. On numerous occasions Hannah was requested to attend medical seminars for the purpose of teaching doctors young and old about particularly rare aspects of her presentation. She almost always cheerfully obliged and the audience never failed to be captivated by her presence. She was a gracious teacher.


At her special developmental school, Hannah would enjoy activities that involved movement or music, but she was not at all happy with messy tactile activities such as finger painting. Her facial expressions were priceless when she was encouraged to participate in such tasks, leaving no doubt that she was extremely unimpressed.


Visits to the swimming pool were a joy for Hannah, as the warm water provided temporary respite from the aches and tension of muscles that did not function well, and she enjoyed the relaxation and comfort provided by the warmth and the buoyancy. However, on leaving the water, this joy was surpassed by the evidently hilarious sensation of shivering, and Hannah would giggle with delight as her little body trembled until she was warm and dry. 


Without a doubt, Hannah was placed on earth for a purpose, to beautify and cheer the lives of all who met her, and to teach people profound things to be used wisely in service to others. She warmed the hearts and enriched the lives of all who met her, just because she was who she was. Hannah. An earth angel.

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