I have helped so many, yet, I have known it is my mission in life to help more. To bring my story to the eyes and ears of hundreds of people that are suffering through loss. Parents, sisters, brothers, family, friends who have lost loved ones. Who have lost them in a way that instantly turns their world from color to black and white. Who are experiencing a devastating unrelenting storm in life that never seems to let up. It is time for me to tell my story. Usually it is of my healing journey…but today, it is of what I have healed from. I need to write this, because this story is what actually happened. This story is what qualifies me to know I can help heal more…

What really happened on that beautiful sunny day mid-June? I had picked up Kaleb from his father’s to go with Rose, her pregnant daughter and three children to Cherry Hill. A water park in Fruit Heights here in Utah. I love water and so did my son. I had him in swimming lessons at 9 months and he was aware of what to do, for the most part, in the water. He wouldn’t jump in unless I was there, but had absolutely no fear once I said “Go!”

We had the best day that day. We went down water slides, through the tubing river, played in the kiddie pool and swam in the big pool with the kids, 6 year old Ysabel, (his best buddy,) 4 year old Anna, and 9 year old Aaron. They were having a blast. It was crowded though, extremely crowded. The water park had three times the season passes that they had ever had that year and no more lifeguards had been hired. They had taken inventory of how many kids were in the pool area itself and there were 180 kids in this pool only two lifeguards. One, 17, whom had been there for 2 weeks, and one, 16, who started two days previous.
I was in this particular pool with him for a good portion of the time, but he had wanted to play on his own with his friends. I got out of the pool and sat by Angela, Rose’s daughter and we chatted while watching our kids, who were all playing with each other. I saw him down in the shallow, 2 foot water side and kept my eye on him. Now, I was used to letting my free-spirited little boy be on his own. He was very stubborn and independent. This day I was watching him closer than I ever had before…thinking I was being paranoid. I had a feeling we should leave and Rose and Angela agreed. Of course, the children wanted to play for a few more minutes. Who would have guessed those minutes would be my son’s last? Certainly not me and I took my eyes off him for a minute…and when I looked back to find him I saw the lifeguards pulling a boy out of the water and everyone else evacuating the pool. “That’s not my boy,” I said as the world turned slow motion and I instinctively began walking towards him. It was.
Now, I’m not the kind of person who panics in high stress situations. I see what needs to be done and do it. I switch into my auto-pilot super mom mode and handle whatever needs to be done. Not this time. I immediately started freaking out. I was in hysterics, as if I knew deep inside it was the beginning of my nightmare. Rose was able to calm me down briefly. I went over to my son and watch these young lifeguards do CPR. They were doing it wrong…filling his stomach with air. A nurse who happened to be there with her kids jumped in and started telling them to tilt his head back. She coached them through it…Kaleb finally threw up!
“Oh, good!” I was so happy, until I heard the nurse say, “He still doesn’t have a pulse, keep going!”
I looked at her, “Yes he does! He has to!”
Angela was holding his feet and saying, “I feel him here, Chalese. Sing to him his favorite song.” I tried, but couldn’t remember the words.
Finally, after what seemed forever, the ambulance arrived. They kept asking what happened, how long since I last saw him, how old he was…I stumbled over every answer, not knowing reality anymore. The paramedics couldn’t get a line in him, couldn’t get a heartbeat from the defibrillator they brought, so they continued doing CPR and life-flighted him to Primary Children’s Hospital. I could not go with him, they wouldn’t let me. Rose had to drive me there…it was 20-30 grueling minutes away. I was so angry that the one day I didn’t have my cell phone was today. I wanted to call Dave, the man who had been like his daddy when his own daddy wasn’t around. I kept asking Rose to find a way to get a hold of him, and she had told me to wait until we knew for sure what was going on.
I walked into the emergency room and had a calm peaceful feeling sweep over me. “He’s ok,” I said to Rose. Then after waiting for another couple of minutes while a baby got a shot at the reception area, I told them who I was. They knew who to send me to. The nurse was there in an instant. I heard, “Take her back to consulting room 11…wait, no he’s in room 5.” I sighed relief, “So, he’s ok?!” She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, no.” I collapsed. Rose and the nurse caught me and took me to a bed that was right in front of his room. The doctor stepped out with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I did everything I could.” She sat next to me and consoled me. Then his dad stepped out of the room. I was mortified he got the news before me. The police had gone to his house and got me. He covered his mouth and shook his head, he had already been crying, and walked away. I walked in the room and held my son. “Can we call Dave now?” I asked Rose. She said yes, and made the call. Ten minutes later he was there.
A few other people showed up to the hospital, (Angela, Hailey and Ryan my dear friends,) as I sat there holding my son. My brother brought my mom, who I asked, “Aren’t I a good Mommy? I’m a good mommy right?” She was crying and said, “Of course,” she got sick and had to lay down.
Dave continued to kneel by my side. He was there when the lady came in and took Kaleb’s hand mold. I remember people asking me questions about organ donations. I donated all but his eyes. I just couldn’t. They were my eyes he had and I wanted him to keep them all for himself. Then I remember having to leave him. “How am I supposed to leave my son, Rose?” I asked. I don’t remember if she had an answer. I had held him until I no longer had the strength. He was getting heavier, stiffer. I laid him down on the bed, kissed his forehead and said, “I love you. You better give God as much trouble as you gave me, or I’m gonna be pissed!” And I walked away. Like a zombie. I sat on the front lawn of the hospital and somehow got home. When I arrived I had so many visitors. All my dearest, closest friends had surrounded me. I remember one was missing. I told some other friends I needed him too, next to me… and they hunted him down.
Rose sat by me through it all. Answering the phone, answering questions, helping me figure out funeral arrangements. I wasn’t able to even say funeral for a while, so she was very patient with me.
I had to call and tell my dad. He was the first person I actually told myself. It was midnight and I called him. I don’t remember what was said.
I couldn’t eat for days, without being fed. I couldn’t sleep without friends literally holding me together. Dave on one side, Hailey on the other…but even with all of the love and the support, this was my nightmare. This was my reality. This was my son. I wanted nothing to do with my family. Only a few people I let into my life at this time. People I wouldn’t have to take care of. People I wouldn’t have to hear how much pain they were experiencing. People that would just hold me. Let me cry. Let me grieve. I died that day inside. The light in my eyes went into an black hole of nothingness.
However, somehow I fought my way out. Somehow, I managed to breathe through the unrelenting sobs. Somehow I managed to smile…even the day of the accident, in honor of him. I knew I had to. Otherwise the thoughts of suicide would overwhelm me and I would have followed through. It has been twelve years since this nightmare started. Twelve years I have healed. I have a story, it’s ugly, it’s beautiful, its real, it’s raw. Because of this, I know it is time. Time for me to share, to help, and to heal. I have always known  this was my path, just wasn’t quite sure when it would start. But the time is now, so please, know that I understand. Know that I have been where you are. I am here to help. I am here to heal.