I have told this story many times since it happened. And every time I am newly overwhelmed by the emotions; the harsh truths; the confusion and the pain of that day. It is as if it is burned into my mind, a movie I can select and recall in infinite detail. I am sure that it is a subjective recollection, as my experience of the day is filtered through my eyes as a mother. She was only three years old, my beautiful daughter, Juneldè. And this is the story of the day she drowned. 13 January 2013.
It was a Sunday and we were driving back from church. It was the start of the new year and we were happy to see our friends. We wanted all to catch up some more and decided to meet up for a barbeque later at our house. It was a casual affair and some of the older kids wanted to swim. The men opened the pool; rolling up the heavy solid cover. The fire was lighted and the kids were playing in the shallow end of the pool. Us mommies were sitting on the patio, keeping an eye on the children. I was asking questions about ballet classes, as I planned to enroll Juneldè the coming week. Soon Juneldè was standing next to me, shivering from cold, pronouncing her hunger. I took her inside, gave her some pre-lunch snacks and dressed her warmly.
Time passed through easy conversation with treasured friends. In the meantime Juneldè has decided that she wanted to change back into swimming clothes to join her friends again in the pool. I helped her into a dry set, kissed her and laughed with her. Soon the food was ready and we all moved inside.
My eyes fell upon the open pool, feeling restless, contemplating whether we should put back the cover. It was however a tedious task and the men wanted to cool of in the pool after lunch. At that moment I made the worst decision of my life, I decided that I will sit at the table in a spot where I am sure I can keep an eye on the pool. I kept quiet about the unrest I felt. Juneldè came to get a piece of sausage from me; she sat next to her friend and was chatting away. She came to me again, asking if I would wash her hands. I saw she still had some sausage left over in her hand, and promised to help her soonest she finished her food…
That was the last time I heard her voice calling me mommy. The last time I saw her wide open smile.
She went back sitting next to her friend again. I smiled with endearment at her animated ways. I looked down, I looked up and engaged in conversation. I looked down again and dished up more food. I looked up…And she was gone.
I was immediately irrationally concerned. My eyes fell on the open pool and I felt cemented to my seat. My head reprimanded my overreaction. My heart telling a different story. I asked my husband: “Where is Juneldè?” At exactly the same time he uttered the same question. I asked him to look in the pool. The urgency in my voice surprised me, but propelled him from his seat. I didn’t understand my angst, as I could see the tranquil pool from where I sat. My husband walked slowly towards the pool, until he reached the deep end corner. He exclaimed: “O no” in a tone of voice I have never heard from him before.
He jumped into the water and our miniature maltese started barking hysterically.
We can never be sure, but from collaboration we estimate that it was only two minutes since we last saw her until she was found. Two minutes too long, two minutes too late. Two minutes that changed everything.
I wrote this following piece at the fourth year anniversary of that day. It touches on the subject of time. The clock that is ticking down our seconds, moments, our hours and years of everyday borrowed time:
Time has a way of not asking permission before moving on…4 Years, 4 YEARS! How can it be? Years filled with tears, pain, anguish, anger, grief; so much grief. Also years filled with healing, hope, grace and love, so much love. I am forever changed by that day, that moment your dead body was lifted out of the water. I am no more. And yet I have become so much more…My voice have become softer, my determination to speak out quieter. This life is so fragile, our souls so easily wounded, yet our Spirits are strong, resilient and utterly connected to Him who gave us life. I cry for what happened to you and our family that day, 4 years ago. Yet I praise Him for granting us more time with you. Your body is broken, but your essence fills our house! We live on borrowed time…4 years…4 YEARS!