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And just like that, she was gone

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

Ever since I was a teenager, I knew what I wanted most in life. I wanted to be a wife and a mommy. I married young...I was only 18 when I married the love of my life and within 4 years, we were a family of 5!

We had our first son after a very traumatic miscarriage. He was the light of our life. A little over a year later, we found out we were having TWINS! I was so excited because surely at least one of them had to be a girl, haha! I wanted a little girl so badly.

God had other plans...we had twin boys. Three years later we found out we were expecting again. We prayed, begged, and probably even bargained for a girl. God delivered!! We were finally having a little girl. We named her Harper Grace and she was the girliest girl you ever did meet. All things pink and glitter. She completed our family. Her brothers...Samuel, Aiden, and Isaac adored her, and her daddy and I just knew she was a real live princess.

Our story is a little different than others. You see, we almost lost 2 of our children to drowning just a year apart.

First, I will tell you about Aiden’s accident at 4 years old.

A few summers ago, the boys wanted to go swimming at my sister’s house. I thought I could take them all and it would be fine. We had floaties, sunscreen, towels...everything we needed to have a fun day.

I had Harper in her little baby water float thing, and I started putting sunscreen on her. The boys weren't in the pool yet because I told them to wait until I was done getting their sister situated. They were running around playing.

I finished putting sunscreen on Harper, so I turned around to start getting the boys ready and I only saw two of them. My eyes immediately went to the water and I saw Aiden floating underneath the water, right where the pool starts to go down into the deep end.

He wasn't moving. I remember trying to run through the water to get to him yelling, "NO! NO! NO! OH MY GOD! NO!" I grabbed his arm and pulled him up and he started making noise. I will never forget the way his eyes looked. They were wide open, he was terrified. His belly was so swollen, and he looked gray. I got him to the side of the pool and made him gag to start throwing up. He threw up so much water and cried. I was so relieved and instantly started crying.

I got everyone in the car, and we headed to the ER. They told me Aiden was seconds from dying. I could never imagine not having one of my babies and for him to almost die five feet away from me, was more than I could handle. I didn’t hear a thing. I didn't hear him fall in the water, he didn’t splash, his brothers didn't even notice. I felt like a failure. I am forever grateful that my sweet boy was fine.

Fast forward a year or so and Harper was now 2 and a half and LOVED the water. She went swimming all the time with her aunt and, boy, was she fearless. She ALWAYS wore her puddle jumper and we praised her constantly for not fearing the water. We clapped when she would jump in and pop back up. We had no idea it would come back to haunt us.

One day my husband, Bryan, had to go to our neighbor’s house to swap our horses from one pasture to another. Samuel and Harper wanted to go with him. I stayed home to get ready for dinner with a friend later that evening. About 30 minutes passed by and I called Bryan because he had my car and I needed to leave. I probably called 5 times and each time it went straight to voicemail. His phone was dead.

Finally, I see him coming down the road and he goes straight into the middle of our yard, laying on the horn. I thought he was just being funny because I kept calling him. Samuel walked in the front door and looked at me and started crying. Then I saw Bryan coming up behind him holding Harper in his arms, he was screaming, NO!! WHY MY BABY!! NO!!"

My heart stopped, I realized something was very wrong and I didn't know what to do. I started yelling at Bryan, "WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BABY?!" He finally made out the words that she drowned. I didn't ask any questions; I just ran and grabbed my phone to call 911. I made Bryan take Harper outside to the front yard to do CPR even though he told me he had already tried and was unsuccessful.

While on the phone with 911 I ran across to our other neighbor’s house. I honestly don’t even know why I did feet were just moving, and I couldn't stop. They ran over to help. We performed CPR for about 30 minutes until the ambulance arrived. They didn't get a pulse until she got to the hospital.

They told us she had a pulse, but she was still unconscious, and I instantly thought “she is gonna be okay. We would probably stay in the hospital a few days and our girl would be fine.” Then they told us they were flying her to a children’s hospital an hour away for testing. We got to hold her hand and kiss her and talk to her until they were ready to take her. The entire time we were there, her heart rate was stable.

Bryan went home to get our clothes since we were going to stay in the hospital until they released her. My sister and her stepmom drove me to the children’s hospital. We beat the helicopter.

Once they landed, it was about 15 minutes before they called my name. The lady smiled at me, so I thought Harper was okay. She told me the doctor would be right with me, so I waited.

Four people walked in... a nurse, the doctor, and the two people that transferred her in the helicopter. The doctor asked me how long she was in the water and I told her I didn't know because I wasn't there. She told me Harper was very sick when she arrived. She said she was so sorry, but Harper didn't make it.

My heart literally stopped at that second. I could only look at her and nod my head. I guess she thought I didn't understand because she said, "as in, she passed away." I just kept looking at her. This isn't possible. She had a pulse. She was gonna be fine.

My baby, my perfect little girl that we prayed so hard for, was gone forever. Bryan finally arrived at the hospital and we had to tell him. My sister was there with me and then Bryan’s sister and some more family came. I couldn't tell anyone. I made the doctors do it. It was awful hearing Bryan’s sister screaming through the walls. We all got to say our goodbyes. They let us stay a few hours with her before they took her away.

We had our sweet baby cremated and her ashes are home with us. It's been about a year and a half, and, some days I still can't get out of bed. I would never wish this on anyone.

We had no idea that teaching her to rely on her puddle jumper was actually setting her up to drown. We think she jumped in our neighbor’s pool because she thought she would just pop back up. But she didn't. Bryan was distracted by the horses, Samuel and Harper were on the swing set, but she slipped away. I will never forgive myself for letting her go. I should have known Bryan would have been focusing on the horses, but I was trying to get ready and was thankful for the break from the kids. Our family will never be whole again. We will always have a princess shaped hole in our hearts.

Now, every year for her anniversary, we raise money to pay for kids in our community to have swim lessons. I couldn't think of a better way to honor our baby girl. DON'T rely on puddle jumpers. They don't teach your kids how to swim. They teach them how to drown!


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