Amy’s Dream is a collection of real-life experiences woven into a motivational piece that encourages us to live life to the fullest and to be able to face grief.
I’ve buried two of my children and it’s not the way things should be. I’ve taken the challenge as a child to swim the length of a pool for the first time and found that having achieved the goal it was perfectly possible to exceed my dreams by a factor of multiples. I know the joys and responsibilities of having children look up to you, and trust you . . . and the sense of satisfaction of having dreams and achieving them. I’ve also had the ‘honour’ of having over-estimated my capacities a little, at times. A life lived to the full minimises regrets and gives us good sleep.
It was not even light and he felt the gentle pat of his daughter’s hand on his arm.
“Papa, I’m ready!” Amy said as she stood their rousing her father from his sleep.
He opened an eye and saw the most beautiful thing in the world all dressed up, standing there smiling up at him expectantly.
“It’s my birthday today!” she beamed. “I’m five today!”
“Happy birthday my darling!” her father said, and rousing too, her mother echoed the greeting.
“What time is it?” her mother asked.
“Six o’clock, Mamma! Remember you said not to wake you before six?”
Amy was her father’s pride and joy. The last of seven children she was the apple of his eye, not the least because he knew that she would be his last.
Amy was his “miracle” baby, a girl who had come along years after they had thought their parenting days were over, and she was a difficult delivery. Born four weeks early and only just making it, she was a special child in many ways. Her mother appreciated the gift of appreciation for having another child and her older siblings treasured her and pampered her. She was even an auntie to a child who was older than her by a decade!
The doctors at the time said that it was only by her incredible tenacity to hang in there the she lived, and that strong-willed child was now standing beside his bed, dressed and ready to go, while he was still trying to sleep. How could he do this to the little girl he loved so much he’d die for?
He arose therefore and kissed her, then led her out the bedroom door and down the stairs, just like he knew that she wanted him to do. As he prepared himself for her big day, she reminded him yet again what was going to happen on her special day.
“We’re going to be first in the queue to the swimming pools and first in the door and first in the pool aren’t we Papa?” she was reminding him more than asking him!
“And you’re going to be with me all the way when I swim the big pool aren’t you?”
“Absolutely Amy – right there beside you every step of the way!” he assured her yet again.
Amy’s family were all strong swimmers and they were constantly training, swimming and travelling to swimming competitions all over the country. Amy loved the water but most of all the excitement of watching her brothers and sisters mix it and match with the best they could find to compete with. She loved watching the timer – the various clocks that showed digital and analogue results. In fact she knew how to interpret the swimming times before she could even tell the time!
She was beside herself when the guns went off and always stood mesmerised as the swimmers all dived into the pool together. She could tell you who touched the water first and many times she predicted who was going to win just watching them in the first few strokes. She analysed their swimming styles and learned all the theory from her father who was the best swimming coach in the country, no the entire world, if you asked Amy! Day after day, hour after hour she would sit and watch and absorb the lessons that he pounded into his students’ hearts and minds. She learned how fitness of body and mind affected ones spirit and was directly related to physical outcomes. She found herself reliving those lessons and teaching them to her older brothers and sisters when they slacked off or forgot something or didn’t quite understand.
“Remember, Papa says that you have to push yourself beyond what you know that you can do, or you’ll never improve!” she would scold one who was proud to repeat the same feat of yesterday.
“You can do it if you want to!” she would help someone who was struggling.
One time her father came back from a toilet break to find his little baby girl teaching half a dozen of his students, and they were lapping it up, amazed that a little girl could speak with so much wisdom and authority.
Oh yes! Everybody loved Amy and she knew it too.
To say she had them all wrapped around her little finger was an understatement and today, on her fifth birthday she had them all organised. One by one, they were all woken in plenty of time to get ready for the swimming pool. They all had their jobs to do on Amy’s special day. Some were photographers, others timers and others support crew. For almost a year she had been planning this day and they all played along perfectly.
Father had said that Amy could swim the big pool when she was five, and today she was five. It truly was going to be her day!
All went according to plan and the entire family was there for Amy, supporting her for her first big swim. They’d all been there and done that (a long time ago) so they all relived their own excitement along with Amy’s. She walked to the end of the huge Olympic sized swimming pool and approached the edge. Her little body contrasted with the huge length and breadth of the pool – even the width of the lanes looked ridiculous to her unimposing size, yet there was a natural grace to her movements and presence so much so that it just felt ‘right’.
It also felt right to the girl too that after so much talking, planning and dreaming that “Amy’s Dream” should come true, and today.
Amy however strong-willed she was, looked at the huge pool in a different way from before. Every other time she was here, she was either watching her father coach others athletes or she was encouraging her siblings. For the first time in her life, it was now she alone who was going to tame the waters. For a five-year old she was a strong girl, and mature for her age, but even this pool seemed like an impossible challenge from where she stood now.
Should she slip in and start slowly, or dive in as she had planned?
She looked up to her family and they were all smiling. Her mother’s smile was a smile of worry. She knew that behind her smile, her mother was worried for her and that if she changed her mind, Mama would be the first to run and lift her and comfort her, but she didn’t need that she decided. Her siblings all had their various smiles and she looked all six of them one by one, silently thanking them for encouraging her; for letting her teach and encourage them when they needed it, and for the example that the ones who had medals had given her when they won. Then she turned her attention to her father, who stood there beaming. She knew that beam inside out and it meant everything to do with his love for her; his confidence in her and how he would do anything for his favourite little girl.
She knew now what to do . . . dive in, just as she had always planned.
Amy stepped up to the edge, took a deep breath and launched herself into the water. She was smaller than the others she had always watched and she had practised diving into the small pool many times, but it was a long way down this time. Eventually she felt first her hands then quickly her head, body and toes slip into the water in what she imagined was a perfect dive. She could analyse the photos they were taking later.
Her natural buoyancy brought her back to the surface in due course, with a few little porpoise kicks thrown in to help her, and she settled in to a steady rhythm. Right left, right left, and a breath. Then again, and again. Occasionally she peeked a look out to her side and could see her father walking along the edge of the pool with some of her family holding the cameras. It was a VERY long way to the end of this pool she thought once, then immediately cast that thought to one side. “It’s a pool and I will be swimming it whether it’s small, medium or huge!” she told her mind.
She looked up and estimated she was a half of the way there, then three quarters, then almost there and finally she touched the end.
It felt soooo good to have swum the Olympic sized pool for the first time – sooo good! It didn’t matter to her that she was only five years old. She felt a million bucks!
Her family were cheering and her siblings running around getting the best shots for posterity. Her father reached down with an open hand to help lift her out of the pool and she slapped it as if to give him five! There was no way that she was getting out of the pool just yet! This was her special day and she’d just conquered it – and in style too, as the cameras will surely show.
She owned this pool now!
Her heart started to settle and was getting back to normal. She floated there on her back looking up at her family all smiling and she pushed off as if to enjoy the experience all the more at the deep end – just suspended in the water above a depth she couldn’t even dive to the bottom of if she tried.
One of her brothers encouraged her to get out of the pool, but she didn’t want to and pretended not to hear him with her ears in the water. Papa told him to “let her be” for a moment and leave her to enjoy the experience.
She paddled a bit, kicked her legs slowly and found herself drifting along the swimming lane a few metres. She watched the beams of the roof pass her by slowly and she counted them, one, two, three and realised that she was swimming backwards towards where she had come from without any real effort. She would soon be a quarter of the way back to the shallow end and she had hardly really swum at all!
Amy liked this and kicked a little more deliberately, she went under the fourth beam and she knew that she was now a quarter of the way down the pool. She thought back to her father teaching backstroke and she tried the moves. She found it a little uncomfortable at first but it worked. It wasn’t hard or a major exertion of effort, in fact it was quite peaceful floating there on her back kicking gently and pulling herself along backwards with the water wheel strokes. She reached the halfway mark and knew this without even turning her head and just kept on swimming backwards, floating, kicking and when she felt like it with the backstrokes.
Reaching the end she looked up at her family who had followed her progress. They felt strange to her now, as if they shouldn’t really be there any more. She now felt a natural affinity to the water and felt as free as a bird would in the air. The idea of filming her swim the pool for the first time seemed almost silly. “Why it’s just a pool for goodness sake!” She thought to herself.
Her father leaned right down and put his hand in the water to lift her out.
“Come on Amy!” he was saying . . . “Time to get out now. You’ve done the pool twice now. That’s more than enough!”
She pushed off away from his hand and couldn’t understand why the man that doted over her suddenly didn’t understand her. Why couldn’t he see that this was her dream? “Amy’s Dream”. She found herself again heading down the swimming lane to towards the deep end as she tried to distance herself from her father. Slipping into a gentle breast-stroke, she again monitored her progress as she passed the quarter mark, the half way and the three-quarter mark. But sadly, she could see her family gathering ahead and didn’t want to have to get out, or face them again. so she changed into swimming mode that put her ears under water. As she touched the end, she turned immediately as if she was in a race, and pushed off down the lane for her fourth run.
Then with that sudden burst of energy over, she started to tire. She knew from all her father’s training that she’d listened to that she had to deliberately slow down and increase her breathing for more oxygen to reach her body muscles. She did this and returned to a natural easy pace.
Nobody knew exactly how it happened at the time – the video later showed that she probably got cramp in her legs but still kept on trying to swim with her arms until she faltered and drowned – but it was too late by the time the family realised what had happened.
Her father heard the shout and was right there with her brother to bring her to the side of the pool the instant they realised she was in trouble.
They attempted a resuscitation without success and they simply had to deal with the events that followed as best they could. Papa, beside himself with self-recrimination wouldn’t let the Police take Amy away for hours. The investigations, and the pain and grieving took their toll and the family were never the same. Amy’s mother suffered badly from the loss of her baby and they needed all the help that they could get from those around them who cared. It was hard for them all.
Amy’s father was the one to place her in the ground. He wouldn’t let anyone near his pride and joy, and the tears dripped off his face in a constant stream as her casket lowered to its resting place.
“This is all wrong!” he was heard saying. “This is all wrong . . . it should be me down there, not her. I’d give anything to exchange places with Amy!”
But he couldn’t do a thing about it now.
A year later, according to custom, he placed a simple plaque on her grave.
WHO DIED AT FIVE
BUT LIVING HER DREAM
Every now and then, when he is feeling lonely, or sad, Amy’s father visits her grave. He’s a good man and he’ll usually start with some tears but it generally doesn’t take long before he recalls the way that she stood at his bedside in the early morning of her fifth birthday and said to him as he slept, “Papa, I’m ready!”
Oh, if he only knew what those words really were to mean at the time!
And then he would think back to the joy that she had in the pool, and how she had conquered it at only five years old, not once, not even twice nor three times, but more. Oh sure, he knew all too well that things had gone wrong; that she had over-estimated her capabilities and that the family had dropped their guard at the wrong time but he knew that she was one of the luckiest people to have ever lived, for even at five years old, she had well and truly lived her dream!
He’d always return from Amy’s grave a grateful man. Grateful that he had been given the privilege of fathering Amy, and grateful too that he still had the opportunity to live his dream. His wife always knew when he’d been up to see Amy, for he would always come home kind and gentle and determined to love her even more.
Afterwards, she’d always remember to thank Amy for that gift too.