When we walked into the church, I had no idea what to expect. Even if I did expect something, what I saw would have greatly exceeded those expectations! Some of the amazing women I go to church with had taken pictures off my blog and created the most stunning display as a tribute to Hailey. It was absolutely gorgeous. There was a video tribute playing (I am working on adding that to the blog), tons of photos blown up and framed in beautiful frames, flowers, and even a bag of the famous, Lay’s Potato Chips. On each flower vase was a word, taken directly from my blog, describing Hailey. I was awestruck.
Then the tears started to flow. I was so honored that she was MY daughter…that my Father in Heaven trusted me to raise her and love her. Looking at Hailey’s bright, beautiful face and her huge smile just took my breath away and I ached once again to hold her, but I knew that as happy as she was in those pictures, she was even happier now.
We walked into the room where the viewing would be and I practically ran up to Hailey. She looked just as beautiful and peaceful as she did the day before. She even had a little smirk on her face…that’s so her. (And I’m not the only one who noticed it!) The viewing was beautiful. We couldn’t believe how many people had taken the time to be there with us to celebrate Hailey’s life. And hers was definitely a life worth much celebrating. As I hugged people and watched everyone coming in, you could feel the peace and joy in that room. Not joy that Hailey was gone of course, but joy that they got to be a part of her life even if only a small part.
Once everyone had gone into the chapel, we decided to bring Lexi in to see her little sister for the first time since she passed away.
On a side note…I wrestled a lot with the decision of whether or not to allow Lexi to see Hailey, but as I prayed about it and discussed it with Lexi, I felt that it was the right thing to do. I told her that it was her decision if she wanted to see Hailey or not and either way would be completely okay. When we went to the first viewing for just our family the day before, I had Lexi stay at a friend’s house. I wasn’t sure how we would all deal with it and didn’t want her to be traumatized or see her sister’s death as a devastating thing. Part of me wishes I had taken her that day, after that amazing experience we had there. I took pictures of Hailey in her "bed." That may sound very weird to some of you, but she looked beautiful and I knew that one day I may want those pictures to look back on. So when we got home Lexi asked me if she could see them. We went upstairs alone and I showed her the pictures I had taken. I figured I would use her reaction to help me decide whether or not to let her see Hailey the day of the funeral. She looked at the first picture and said, “Mom, Hailey looks beautiful…just like she’s sleeping.” It was then that I knew it was okay for her to personally say goodbye to her sister.
On another side note…I was going to put some pictures that I took of Hailey on this blog because she did look so beautiful and peaceful, however after much thought and prayer, I felt that they were too sacred to share in such a public forum. Plus, there are many who may be uncomfortable with such images and I felt it better to have her remembered alive and full of life.
Back to the viewing…As Lexi walked into the room, I thought I was going to fall apart. She walked in looking terrified as to what to expect. I walked over to her, took her in my arms and asked her if she was sure she wanted to see Hailey. She said yes, so Sean and I walked her over.
The look of love on Lexi’s face was indescribable. She reached her hand out and picked up Hailey’s cold little fingers, put them to her mouth and kissed them. It was such a pure, sweet moment. It took every bit of my strength not to fall apart. Then she took Hailey’s baby blanket out of my hands (I had been carrying it for days and planned on keeping it forever.) and placed it over Hailey’s body, tucking her in. I could no longer stop my tears. I gave her a big hug and told her how warm Hailey would be now. She told her sister she loved her and to have fun in Heaven.
We then took some family pictures, just for our personal viewing and put all of our little mementos in Hailey’s bed with her. Our dear friend Nancy gave us these little ceramic hearts with another small heart cut out of the middle. We wrote on them with a marker, put one half with Hailey and kept the other half with us. Her "bed" really was full. By the time we all put our special mementos in there, you could barely see Hailey’s little body! It was actually kind of funny. I put a thing of Tums in there because every morning Hailey would go into my drawer and ask me for one. (If she only knew I needed them because of her!!!) Well, after putting them in there, Kim was telling us that her stomach was really sick and upset, so out came the Tums…Kim took a couple…and back in they went. I could totally hear Hailey, “No Auntie Bim…those my Tums!!!”
Everyone said their goodbyes and left the room so Sean and I could have one last moment with our baby girl. Was this really the last time I would see her? How in the world was I going to let them close her little bed? How was I seriously going to say goodbye? I think the only way I was able to get through that was knowing that her little bed will once again open wide, she will jump out, yelling, “ME HERE!,” and I’ll hold her in my arms…all on that beautiful day when Christ comes again!
***A very special thanks to Sean's cousin, Sheli, for the gorgeous pictures she took during this very sensitive and emotional time. She did an amazing job of capturing the services for Hailey in a beautiful, dignified way. We will cherish these and the rest of the photos she took for our entire lifetime.