It has been a year since we had to say good bye to my dear niece, and our beautiful angel, Hayley Caroline Protz. Hayley left us a year ago, and since then my thoughts about her and her two awesome parents have seldom been very far away from my daily routine. I've never been a parent, so I'm probably not one who could talk about what kids mean. I feel very fortunate in a sense that I'm able to see all the photographs of the kids of my friends, those that are sent to me via e-mail, through Facebook, and around the office. I'm lucky to work for a company of 400+ people who allow me to take pics of them and their families, they all mean a lot to me. I suppose that I tend to live a bit vicariously through these people, and I'm always glad that they choose to share these pictures and moments with me.
Being an uncle however has been a special thing. I'm very grateful to have Julia and Max, my first niece and nephew. So when I found out that my second niece, Hayley was due to arrive last year, I was over the moon. Being the amateur photographer, I was already running through my mind how I was planning to take her picture in any number of ways. No doubt, I would have driven both her and her parents crazy, haha. I really wish I could have had the opportunity to do so much more.
Hayley's passing in one sense is a loss, but in another sense it is something else, something that is much more positive. I've always had a strong sense of spirituality, one that has only been strengthened and fortified by Hayley's presence in my life. Over the last year, I've constantly thought about her, about her awesome parents, and what she has brought to my own life. My own existence is so much better for her having been here...that's quite a feat of influence for someone who only spent 4 days on this Earth.
Is Hayley's influence still present, even though she is no longer with us? I would have to say, most definitely yes. Let me give you an example. About a month ago, I was at the Radiology Consultants Associated office at South Centre Mall in Calgary. For anyone who is unfamiliar with South Centre Mall, it is a large shopping mall at the corner of McLeod Trail and Anderson Road at the south end of Calgary. The RCA office is on the south side of the mall in the Medical wing. I was down there one evening after hours to do some work on one of the ultrasound tech computers. Because that office is pretty busy during the day, any work on these computers usually has to be done during the off hours after everyone had left for the day. Our office is in the medical wing of the mall, which is in the basement near the Sport Chek. At times like this when it is quiet and no one else is around, I have time to think while I work, and of course this evening I was thinking about Hayley...as I often have done over the past year. 6pm rolled around, and I was done with the PC that I was working on, so I packed up everything and got ready to head home. When you leave our office, you have to walk down the medical wing corridor, to the escalator by Sport Chek, up to the main floor and then you are out in the parking lot. I was making the walk down the corridor towards the escalator, still thinking about Hayley and how much I missed her. I approached the bottom of the escalator just at the same time as another lady holding her young son got on. This lady's daughter was following, the daughter was about five or six years old. She was following her mother; both this little girl and I arrived at the bottom of the escalator at the same time while her mother was about 15 feet up. I smiled at her and said, "go ahead my dear, you first", while the mother was watching her daughter.
Right at that moment, it was like someone snapped their fingers in front of me, and all my attention was focused squarely on this little kid. I had this sense that I had to watch her.
"Pay attention. You watch her. Pay attention to her", my instincts were telling me.
Ever had that feeling that something was about to happen? That's what was going through my mind as we were going up. This little girl was about 2 steps up in front me, while her mother was about 15 feet higher up the escalator, watching her daughter and me, this stranger that was a couple of steps behind. We got about halfway up, when this little girl's boot caught in the side molding of the escalator. She tripped and fell backwards. I didn't even think, I reached down and caught her behind her back before she went right over.
"Easy does it...are you ok?" I asked her...she nodded 'yes' and then ran up the stairs to her mother. We got to the top of the escalator, mom thanked me, I smiled and said "no problem, have a good night"
As I was walking back to the car, I realized that I was thinking about Hayley right before this happened. I wonder....maybe my niece is now a guardian angel? How cool is that... No doubt about it, Hayley's influence is as strong as ever.