Hailey died when Ava was only 9 months old, so Ava was left with no tangible memories of her big sister. We have, however, kept Hailey very alive in our family. We talk about her all the time. We visit “Hailey’s Place” (the cemetery) several times a week, often decorating her stone and having picnics there. We have photos of her all over our house. But even with all these things I’ve always feared that since Ava was so young when Hailey passed away she would never really “know” or “care” about her big sister.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. One day, about a year ago, Ava was sick so I was lying on the couch with her. It was quiet and out of the blue she said, “Me see Hailey.” I assumed she was talking about the huge picture we had of her at the top of our first set of stairs so I casually responded, “I know, I see her beautiful picture too.” Ava then said, “No, not her picture. Her, Hailey.” At this point my heart started racing as I began scanning the room for some ghostlike figure of Hailey standing in the corner. (As much as I would LOVE to see her again, I will admit that would totally freak me out!) Anyways, I asked her where she sees Hailey and she said, “At nigh-night time. She comes and reads me books.” My heart racing suddenly came to a complete halt and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Ava wasn’t even three yet, so I knew she wouldn’t really be able to make something like that up, but on the other hand, I felt a little skeptical and didn’t want to get too excited. She then told me that Hailey reads her Brown Bear, Brown Bear which was one of Hailey’s favorite books…something I had never told Ava. I wanted to ask her so many questions, but also didn’t want to feed her information. I wanted to keep what she was telling me as pure as possible to really try to determine if this was truly happening. After that small conversation we didn’t speak of it again for quite some time.
I truly believe 100% that Ava sees Hailey at times. I remember once about 3 months after Hailey had died we went to visit the cemetery and I opened Ava's car door to see her intently staring up at the sky. There was literally nothing there...not a cloud, plane, bird, nothing. She would not break her stare even after I said Ava several times and waved my hand in front of her face. All of sudden she started crying and waved, saying, "Bye Bye." I got the chills and knew exactly what she was seeing. There have even been a couple times where Ava has come to me very upset because Hailey hadn't "visited" her in a while. So, I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Hailey is around us and getting to know her little sister even though she isn't physically here.
Now fast-forward many months from that first conversation and there’s Ava talking to me again about how Hailey comes and reads with her at night. She also told me that Hailey is very happy and lives with Jesus. Hailey has since become a very important and integral part of Ava’s life. She talks about her ALL the time. She points out every Lay’s Potato Chip truck yelling, “Those are Hailey’s chips!” She knows when we pass by the street the cemetery is on and makes sure to tell me, “That’s Hailey’s Place over there.” She knows where the clinic is and LOVES to visit there. She loves to pick out little bags of Lay's potato chips to drop off for Hailey when we go visit her. And she is constantly asking me if Hailey is going to be there whenever we do things as a family. She always says, “And Hailey can come too!” And when I bought two little fish for Joey, Ava insisted on naming the first one Mayz (Hailey's middle name) and the second one, Hailey.
A couple weeks before Halloween we had a party at our church where people decorate the trunks of their cars and the kids walk around trick-or-treating. Ava must have asked me 10 times if Hailey was going to be there. (What does a mother say to that?) It breaks my heart every time she asked with much excitement, “Is Hailey going come?” And I had to reply with, “No, probably not this time,” or, “She might, but you probably won’t be able to see her because she’ll be a ghost.” :) Ava ended up having a blast at the church Halloween party and even yelled, “This is AMAZING,” as she saw all the candy. Yet, still at the end when I asked her if she had fun she said, “Yes, but I’m kinda sad.” I said, “Why would you feel sad?” And then I felt my stomach turn as she whined, “Cause I wish Hailey was here with me.” I do too Ava. I wish Hailey was here with me too.
As Ava’s 4th birthday approaches I’ve started planning her birthday party. She’s so excited about it and after telling her we were going to do a My Little Pony theme, her favorite, I said, “And guess who’s going to be there!” (I was planning on listing her friends.) Her face lit up like a lightbulb, she took a big gasp, and yelled, “HAILEY!” There really are no words to explain how that made me feel. I honestly don’t even remember how I responded because it caught me by such surprise, but what I do remember is walking into the bathroom a couple seconds later to dab my tear filled eyes.
On one hand, I am so happy that Ava is so interested in her sister and seems to feel such a connection to her. But on the other, it seriously hurts so much to constantly see the sadness or disappointment in her eyes when her sister isn’t going to be with us. That being said, I do feel like I’ve done a good job of keeping Hailey alive in our family and making sure that her sister (and soon her brother as he gets older) will always know they have two big sisters who love them very much. I want them to “know” Hailey and who she was and what she stood for and the aMAYZing legacy she has left for them. To that, I’d have to give myself a humble pat on the back and say, “Good job, Mommy.”
Some pics of Hailey & Ava:
(Hailey absolutely LOVED Ava! There was not one second of jealously from Hailey when Ava was born. She wanted to help with everything and took such good care of Ava. Ava's first giggle happened when Hailey was playing with her. They had such a bond that I know still continues beyond this Earth.)
This was Hailey's first time seeing Ava.
(She was so proud and excited!)
I would often find Hailey checking up on Ava.
I also have a picture of Ava reaching out and touching Hailey's head at the viewing on the day of her funeral. It is so touching, but also something I wasn't sure I could share on my blog as it does show Hailey lying in her casket and may be difficult for some to see. (Although, she looked absolutely beautiful.)