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Mother's Day: Bemidji mother appreciates new chapter of parenthood

Hope Johnson, center, gives her mother, Gena Hasson, a big smile as she completes a physical therapy session with a new body harness that allows her to walk with a walker. Helping her is Cheryl Palmer, a physical therapist at Peak Performance. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

For Gena Hasson, her younger daughter's injury and the subsequent three-month separation from her older daughter are difficult thoughts.

But she said being a single parent of two wonderful children makes Mothers Day especially sweet.

"It means more to me now," Gena said. "Any way I look at it, we just got a second chance. Every morning we wake up is a good day."

Gena's younger daughter, 7-year-old Hope Elizabeth Johnson, was severely injured in a Jan. 6 vehicle accident. Hope suffered a severed spine and other injuries. She is paralyzed from the waist down.

"God knew I was strong to begin with, but he knew I couldn't lose a child," Gena said. "In this experience, I realized for the first time I'm a good mom."

Gena and Hope spent the three months following the car crash in hospitals, while Hope's sister, Ashlin, 15, stayed with relatives in Litchfield, Minn. The family returned to Bemidji last month. Hope now attends Northern Elementary School. She also works out in therapy at Peak Performance.

"I got in my truck this morning and I said, 'I'm just so proud of you,'" Gena said. "Ashlin, too - I couldn't do it without her. If it hadn't been for Ashlin, we never would have recovered as fast."

Ashlin said she helps bathe and care for her sister. But she also expressed appreciation for her mother.

"You're fun to be around, and you make me laugh," she said to Gena. "I like it when you bake for me - cookies."

As Ashlin left for an afternoon of fishing with her boyfriend, Walker Landa, she hugged her mother. She and Gena both said "Love you" instead of "Good bye."

Hope also offered a tribute to her mother.

"She's very nice, she tries not to yell and she has very good taste," Hope said.

Gena said Hope is the name she chose for her younger daughter, and Elizabeth is a family name.

"It means consecrated to God," she said.

"I've got a special name?" Hope asked. "What does 'consecrated' mean?"

"I think we're closer now than we've ever been," Gena said. "I think anybody who can come out on top like we did and be happy - it's miraculous. I'm not saying we haven't had hard days. There are moments of sadness and heartache."

Also difficult, Gena said, are working with the human services systems and her lack of sleep. She must set her alarm to turn Hope every two hours at night.

But Gena said their faith and the prayers of caring people, friendly greetings and goodwill all help the healing process. She said their church family at First Assembly of God in Nymore also supports them and helps their spiritual growth.

"I will never look at life the same," Gena said. "It's taught me a lot about what's important about relationships."

Gena is a sales representative for Pinnacle Publishing LLC.