We were swimming with a friend of mine and her girls today when it happened. It was a beautiful day and we were having a great time. There was no one really there, but one guy giving swimming lessons. We were in the kiddie pool with the girls when I heard a little girl screaming and crying her eyes out. I quickly glanced up to my right and saw the teacher trying to peel this little blonde girl off of him. For a split second...it was Hailey! My heart started racing, my stomach turned somersaults, and my chest became tight. It took all I had not to crumble into a ball of tears and flood those kids right out of the kiddie pool.
Hailey LOVED her "swimmin lettons," as she called them. Although, this wasn't always the case. The first few times were excruciating. She screamed hysterically, yelling, "All done...me all done!" After a few days of this madness, I turned to bribery. And yes, I was one of those people who swore I'd NEVER bribe my kids! And yes, that was also before I actually HAD kids!
Anyways, I told her that if she didn't cry once during her whole lesson, we'd go to McDonald's and I'd get her a cheeseburger. This child would do ANYTHING for food! It worked like a charm! She didn't make a single peep the entire lesson. After that, she would run to me every single day at the end of her lesson and yell, so proudly, "Mommy, me no cry! Me no cry today!"
For some reason this is one of my fondest memories of her. I think partially because her swimming lessons ended only a couple weeks before she died, so it's one of my last memories of her. I still have her little certificate on my fridge...it will probably be there forever. Although, I don't think about those days very often because the pain really is too much to bear. I miss those swimming lessons so much...more than any words could ever describe. I would do anything to have one of those days back.
Now, back to the pool today. Hearing this little girl cry and seeing how much she looked like Hailey from afar, literally tore me into pieces. I almost had to hold myself back from running and jumping into the pool, grabbing her and just hugging her as tight as I could. I wanted to hold this little girl in my arms and tell her it was okay and everything would be alright. The pain was very raw.
I'll admit that I also felt a strong twinge of jealousy when I watched her mother pluck her out of the pool when she was finished and tell her what a good job she did. I was so tempted to walk over and tell her that a cheeseburger would do wonders for future lessons!
I think this is one of the hardest parts of the grieving process...never knowing when some random occurrence will literally knock you off your feet and throw you to the ground in a ball of agony. I made it through her birthday, what should have been extremely painful, relatively unscathed. Yet, I had to pull myself out of the pool today and sit down in a chair to catch my breath and hold myself together after seeing a random little girl. I've thought of that little girl all day. I've thought of Hailey all day. My stomach still turns every time I think of that moment. I almost yearn to go back to the pool tomorrow to see if she'll be there again, just so I can catch a little glimpse of my Hailey.
However, as I sat on that chair and breathed through the pain, a dragonfly flew down right past me! It circled around and flew by me once again, as if to say..."Hi Mom. It's okay! I don't need swimming lessons here! I can swim all I want!" It was truly a beau'ful moment. A tender mercy from God.
Here are some pictures of Hailey at her "swimmin lettons."
Of course, these were all after the cheeseburger bribe!!
My little fish!
Patiently waiting her turn.
Mommy was so proud!