Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes

What does the name ‘Emma’ mean?

She looked it up once but couldn’t remember. Hannah more likely blocked it out. After all, she never even liked the name, and didn’t choose it. That name came to her with unrelenting persistence.

Images of her, Emma, continued to float in a pool of Hannah’s thoughts.

Does she look the way I imagine, with blonde curls and eyes that sparkle blue? How would she react if we met? What would I say?

She was still at a loss, even after the passage of several years.

Hannah’s eyes settled on the white orchid next to her bed, illuminated by the fingers of the moon creeping through the window. So beautiful; fragile. The sweet aroma of citrus and spice permeated the room as blackness came over her, taunting her with the impending chaos of another dream.

Tortuous nightmares continued to torment Hannah, pulling her apart as if slowly exploding from the inside out. Reckless at a tender age, she’d been naïve, ignorant . . . terrified. In efforts to escape her fears, her flippant decision was made with complete oblivion to the aftermath. Never did she imagine the continual barbs of remorse that would pierce her heart, leaving her crumpled beneath a heavy cloak of shame. Recurrent dreams were torn from her chest as images of bright, red blood splattered across stark, white sheets.

Abortion isn’t pretty.

How long? Hannah would cry out. Would there ever be a release from the storms ravishing her mind? She believed perhaps she’d be emotionally imprisoned for her remaining days. A self-made prison, her penance, to never know love again.

Numbness ensued as Hannah warred with herself. Every shred of her body winced in a dull pain—weary from the fight. Maybe it was time to call in the cavalry. Pressing hints of surrender tugged at her mind as her brow furrowed, knowing that courage was only a prayer away. A prayer, along with guts and honesty. She wondered what would happen . . . if.

Fluttering eyelids attempted to fight her diminishing focus and her muscles surrendered to gravity. Hannah’s foggy mind dragged her, unwilling, into sleep.



The edge of the lush garden overlooked a glistening, aqua seaside lined with rocks. Brushes of sea mist tickled Hannah’s cheeks as the scent of citrus and spice dotted the flowers nestled among the trees. A cloud of butterflies landed in Hannah’s stomach as a sharp pain stung her chest. How should she feel? What should she expect? What if the girl doesn’t . . . like me? Fear wrapped its tentacles around Hannah’s heart.

Two birds performed a choreographed dance in the wet sand as the waves made a gentle crawl to the shore. Caressed by a warm breeze, Hannah smiled with mild reassurance.

“Mommy! Mommy!” The cries of the sweet voice broke her concentration.

Hannah turned to see her little Emma bounding down the lawn, weaving her way through the garden; her blonde curls bouncing with each step. Tears puddled between Hannah’s eyes; a slight moan escaped her lips. Emma was so beautiful.

As she watched Emma run closer, Hannah noticed Jesus standing in the distance. Their eyes locked. With a nod, she smiled to acknowledge her gratitude for allowing Emma and her to meet.

“Mommy, it’s me. Emma!” She leapt into Hannah’s arms.

“Hi, Baby!”

They both laughed through chopped-up tears, holding each other tight. With blurred vision, Hannah finally looked up to see that Jesus had left them alone for a while. Emma and Hannah remained silent, frozen in each other’s arms for what seemed like hours. They just hugged and giggled, laughed and cried, and hugged some more.

Finally sitting down on the rock bench, they brushed stray hairs from each other’s faces and Hannah wiped the moisture from their cheeks. She held Emma’s soft, fragile hands in hers as Emma’s blue eyes carrying the glint of the sun flickered up to meet hers.

“Oh, Emma.” Hannah’s voice cracked as she spoke. “It’s so good to see you, to actually hold you. How I’ve missed you. So often I’ve longed to see my little girl and give her a great, big hug.”

Giggling, Emma threw her arms around Hannah’s neck for a great, big hug.

“So, Emma,” Hannah said. “How are you?”

Emma’s tiny face beamed. “Oh, Mommy, I’m sooooo happy!”

Emma crawled onto Hannah’s lap and began telling all about her life. She described her friends, her favorite ice cream, her chats with Jesus.

As Hannah blinked back tears, she realized her child had known nothing but love for all her six years of life.

“And Mommy, most of all, I love you!”

“Jesus told me all about you, Mommy.” Emma flipped her head back and forth, playing with her fingers as if telling a story.

“He told me what you looked like, what you liked to do, and He said you have a biiiig heart. I knew I was lucky. Then He told me that someday we can be together all the time.”

Emma looked up at Hannah, cupping Hannah’s face with her little hands.

“Won’t that be great?”

Unannounced sobs burst from Hannah’s chest as she turned to face the water.

“Please don’t cry, Mommy. I understand everything. Jesus explained it all. He said you’d have a hard time believing how much we loved you.” She lightly stroked Hannah’s hair, the child comforting her mother.

“Don’t you understand, Mommy? We get to be together forever someday—that’s how much God loves us!”

With her eyes still brimming with tears, Hannah cleared her throat and faced her daughter.

“Emma, I’m so sorry. I never meant to separate you from me. It’s been so hard.” Hannah filled her lungs with a deep breath.

“Emm, because I ruined your life, I’ve blamed myself for everything going wrong in my life . . . all because of the damage I knew I was capable of. I couldn’t accept you or God could possibly love me.”

“But Mommy,” Emma said. “We don’t feel that way. We never did.”

Emma tapped Hannah on the shoulder as she met her gaze.

“Mommy, please believe me, and smile again.”

Hannah released a faint chuckle and embraced the irresistible little girl.

“Oh, wait!” Emma bubbled with excitement. “I have something for you. I’ve been waiting a long time to give this to you.”

Jumping off Hannah’s lap, Emma darted behind a nearby tree and brought forth a small, heart-shaped box. The box was covered in stark, white, paper with a bright, red ribbon tied around it.

“Oooooh, it’s beautiful,” Hannah said.

“Jesus and I wrapped it together. It’s from both of us!”

As Hannah began unwrapping the paper with delicate care, Emma bounced up and down, struggling to contain her excitement. Finally, Hannah opened the box. She was unable to visibly see anything however, a warm glow washed over her as she peered inside.

“It’s forgiveness, Mommy!” Emma shouted. “For you!”

Looking up at Emma, joy tugged at the corners of Hannah’s lips.

“I know, Emma,” she said. “Thank you so much. It’s precious, especially because it came from you.”

Swooping Emma up into her arms, they both spun around in circles, erupting in hearty laughter. They continued to spin, almost losing their breath, until they spotted Jesus standing in the distance smiling at them. Stopping, they stood together at each other’s side, catching their breath. It was time for them to say good-bye for a while.

Hannah knelt before Emma, taking her hands as they met each other’s gaze.

“Little Emma,” she said. “Do you suppose Jesus would let you be my guardian angel until I come back to live with you?”

A bright radiance covered Emma’s face as she squeezed Hannah’s hands.

“Mommy, I already am.”

Emma and Hannah exchanged another biiiiiig hug and a huge kiss before Emma ran up through the garden to where Jesus was standing. She took his hand, turning toward Hannah. They looked at each other with a grin, as if they’d rehearsed a scene. Then Jesus looked at Hannah and with his hands signed, ‘I-love-you’, which was followed by Emma blowing Hannah a kiss.

Content and happy amid the beautiful garden of orchids, Hannah watched Emma walk away with her Lord.



Hannah gasped for fresh air as she awoke. Enveloped in warmth, the smell of citrus and spice lingered in the room. Clawing her way to standing, Hannah’s heart thundered as she snatched her Bible from the nightstand. The bright light of the moon’s beams pooled at her feet as she stood at the window, clutching her Bible to her chest. With tears anchored at the corner of her eyes, she whispered these long-awaited words to herself.

“I forgive you.”

Hannah released a breath she didn’t know she was holding. A sudden smile swept across her face. Finally, she remembered what the name ‘Emma’ meant.

The name Emma meant “healer”.

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