As that ambulance raced away into the night with my tiny, sick, unconscious daughter in it, the daughter that had still been inside me just twelve days before, I was as present as I have ever been in my entire life. I felt the emptiness of my warm hands that had passed my baby on to complete and utter strangers in the dark of a humid August night. I felt the concrete firmness of a hospital sidewalk, so seemingly solid underneath my feet. I felt the tears drying up on my face, leaving the skin of my cheeks taught and my tongue salty. That moment, so many years ago now, lives on in me. It makes strange, eloquent reappearance in other moments, like when I am sitting next to my grown daughter in her now strong, healthy, vibrant woman’s body and I hear her laugh. I become suddenly and completely filled with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of timelessness, an acute awareness of the gift of her, the gift of each moment with her and that they are like a long silk ribbon, not stretched out, but rather gathered up in overlapping folds and a needle pushes through them all at once. I am suddenly present with layers of moments and, simultaneously, I can feel them all.
Like today. Today I went with Haylie to the Indiana University Kelley School of Business to meet with her idol and mentor (through a series of online videos that she watches religiously), the well-known, wise, successful Dr. K, chairman of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Needless to say, she was star-struck. Haylie’s dream is to study in his program and to change the world through paradigm-shifting work in the health care industry. She plans to revolutionize the way geriatric patients receive care. She wants to employ the same methods that allowed her to heal from her brain-injury with Alzhemiers and Dementia patients to help them heal their brains. The fortuitous turn of events that led her here, on this bright May day, are long and involved but she met the right person at the right time and secured herself an hour in this man’s busy schedule.
She was literally floating through the glass doors of his suite as I followed her with amusement. As she reached out her hand to shake his, and smiled so sincerely as she looked into his eyes, happiness literally oozed out of her, filling the room and its glass walls with a radiance that made tears come all the way up into the back of my eyeballs. As she sat and visited with this man, who has revolutionized the way she sees her path in life and the way she handles the obstacles she meets upon it, he seemed every bit as genuinely delighted as she was to be having this friendly conversation about paradigms and questioning minds and leaning into possibilities. His battle cry is “the next small step” and my daughter really resonates with it. As he steadily explained his philosophy, which she was already well familiar with, about the importance of having a big shining dream out in front of you, calling you forward, but focusing on just the next small step, I thought to myself: buddy, you have no idea how right you are. small steps. creeping, crawling, patterning, masking, brachiating, running, biking, swimming, day in and day out. so many small steps that have added up to her being capable of sitting here in this moment, in this way.
And as I sat next to her, so enchanted with this human being who is so gloriously alive with futures swimming out in rippling circles widening all around her, I felt that I was as present as I have ever been in my entire life. I am the head of a needle pushing through silk, feeling another moment added into the folds of this ribbon of life.
Looking back on that night when Haylie was transferred to Riley Children’s Hospital and the kind, dark-skinned ambulance doctor told me that he didn’t know if she would even survive the journey but that he would certainly do his best, I can now see so clearly how my daughter’s purpose was already in place – her determination, passion, drive were already there within her. And although I was quite emotional in the face of that “tragedy,” I cannot say that I was afraid. People say to me, “Oh, how terrified you must have been!” and my own mother would later lament, “I just don’t know what would have become of you if she hadn’t made it!” But to be completely honest, I actually never even considered that.
Something was happening.
Something very important and poignant was happening to me. My life was being transformed in a way that has taken me a long time to understand.
This is the story of that transformation, mine. And, it is also the story of how I have simply been the doorway for a beautiful, powerful being to come into this world, a being who brings changes that so many will benefit from and, in fact, already have. She does not know, yet, exactly what shape her future will take, but she has some ideas, she has a dream. She has a fierce loyalty to that dream and to the seedling place within her from which it comes. She has an infectious enthusiasm and a laugh that can light a room on fire, like it did today. And, she has a strong sense of purpose. This girl came here for a reason and I’m tellin ya, she ain’t messin’ around.
“I think that I’m beginning to find my gifts. I have lots of them. I also agree that the purpose is to give them away. Not because we have to in order to fit in but because it feels good and is fun to give.” ~Haylie Anna Hawxhurst, May 16, 2016
I began this blog to share pieces of the book I'm writing about my daughter's courageous march down the path from brain injury to wellness. It's the story of how one little girl overcame the odds, a long list of labels, and limiting diagnoses. I hope it inspires other parents to dream bigger by knowing what is possible.