Here, Lisa Lillie, 40, tells the story in her own words.
￼Bolting to her craft table, my girl, Harper, grabbed a pencil and started scribbling.
Dear Liam… she began. We’d just got home from prep and my five-year-old had received a Christmas card from her crush.
Whenever Harper so much as mentioned Liam’s name, she’d blush and giggle. And like me, my girl loved the silly season. At our house, the tree was up and pressies were ready to be wrapped.
Now, Harper and her big brother, Nate, seven, were just waiting to see Santa!
So, a week before Christmas, on a Sunday, my hubby Richard and I took the kids to meet his family at our local bowlo – where the man himself was to appear.
Reaching into his sack, Santa handed Harper the best gift ever – a kit to make Finding Nemo snow globes!
Ripping it open to find plaster Dory and Nemo figurines, paints and glitter, my crafty baby was beside herself.
‘Mum, can I do this now?’ she pleaded. ‘Not now, Flossie Chops,’ I said.
‘Do you want to come over for dinner?’ my mother-in-law, Jill, asked as we got ready to leave.
I have to write my Christmas cards, I thought.
Harper might be on top of hers, but at this rate I wouldn’t send mine until after the holidays!
‘We can’t stay late,’ I said.
As soon as we arrived, Harper talked Daddy and Grannie into helping her make her snow globes.
But, as it was a stinking hot day, the kids wanted to jump in the pool. We only lived a five-minute drive away – I could pop home, pick up their bathers and my Christmas cards!
By the time I got back, Harper had completed her creations. We filled them with water and watched in wonder as the glitter swirled inside.
As Nate and Harper piled into the pool with their daddy, I sat down at the dining room table to write my Christmas cards.
The TV blared with a cricket game and the scent of garlic bread wafted from the kitchen.
Happy squeals and the sound of splashing drifted in from outside.
Both my kids were confident swimmers – especially Harper who glided through the water like a tiny mermaid.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, I heard Richard.
‘Right, time to hop out!’ he said. ‘Get your towels.’
Then I saw Richard walk past the window, shortly after followed by Nate.
‘Where’s your sister?’ I asked. ‘She’s gone to get dressed,’ I heard one of the adults say.
Checking the bedroom, it was empty.
Frantically sprinting back to the pool, Richard reached the edge at the exact same moment as I did. ‘Oh no,’ he choked out, in a voice I’d never heard before. It was pure pain.
Just minutes had passed, but our baby was floating lifeless at the bottom.
Immediately diving in, Richard ripped Harper out of the water and a family friend, Ginny, and Richard’s sister, Anna, both nurses, worked on her while we waited for paramedics.
All the while, I cradled my girl, screaming with terror. Sit up! Cough! I pleaded silently, imagining she’d open her eyes. But there was no light in our little spark.
Once revived at the scene, Harper was raced to the ICU where she was put into an induced coma.
The next day, the Royal Flying Doctor Service flew her to Townsville.
Praying for a Christmas miracle, we lay beside her, singing to her and reading her favourite stories. ‘I love you,’ I told her over and over.
Five days passed by in a blur.
Then, on December 23, Rich and I made the heartbreaking decision to turn off Harper’s life support.
Brain dead, she could no longer breathe on her own.
When Nate kissed his little sister goodbye, I didn’t know how I’d survive.But, Harper would live on.
Donating her organs, our sorrow had taken away someone else’s. Back at home for the first time since losing Harper, I made a beeline for her craft desk. For a tiny thing, she made a big mess –and I was forever asking her to close it. Shutting it now, I sank to the ground. I’ll never do that again, I sobbed.
Harper’s death devastated our family. But it was just a terrible accident. Harper must have been dawdling when they got out of the pool.
Sharing my girl’s story with the local newspaper, the online comments were hard to stomach.
Why weren’t they watching their kids? many read. We should’ve been, I agreed.
My little mermaid was a confident swimmer. So we became complacent around the water when we should’ve been watching like hawks.
I’m sharing our story in the hope that Harper will save lives. Please don’t avert your eyes when your children are in water, even for a moment.
This will be our third Christmas without our sassy princess. Her very last creation – the Dory snow globe – sits pride of place on my bedside table. But Harper’s legacy lives on. Her kidneys saved the lives of two people. And I recently found out that one of her heart valves gave a baby boy a second chance.
My girl will always be the most exceptional Christmas miracle.
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