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Healing waters: the swimming pool brings a family together and helps ease the pain death leaves behind.

It was almost a decade ago that I lost my mother. And just months ago, I lost her all over again.

Let me explain.

My mother, Dorothea Katz, passed away in January of 1997. She was both my inspiration and role model. Recently, I lost my aunt, to whom I was more of a surrogate daughter than a niece, especially after my mother's passing.

This past Mother's Day was the first without either of them. But rather than spending time at a cemetery or looking at old pictures, I remembered them, and healed, the same way I always do: by going to the water.

That's where I went during the months preceding my aunt's passing, a replay of the vigil that my family and I kept for my mother. The aching pain of inevitable loss was softened once more by retreating to the swimming pool of our local "Y," just two blocks from the same hospital.

Again, the friendly waters were consoling and gave me peace and solitude to release my tears. My many seasons of training allowed me to swim on automatic while my mind was free to play back the memories of their lives.

And who could forget my Aunt Charlet? At 4 feet, 8 inches, she was small in stature but larger than life. She was a beautiful actress, appearing in Broadway hits such as "Fiddler on the Roof," and movies such as "Flirting with Disaster." Her good looks and quick wit captivated audiences, acquaintances and loved ones.

Charlet was a "party girl" with a fabulous career, great friends, a surrogate family and a love of the water. Every birthday or holiday was a celebration full of family, fun--and of course, swimming.

Swimming was something the entire family shared. Both my parents were raised in the water. And I surely was born swimming. Charlet was no different, especially in her later years. My father, who still coaches at the "Y," had also helped her to swim for fitness and therapy.

But in September of 2004, Charlet began to have serious health problems and was hospitalized. After several weeks of recuperation she had an elective surgery, which had unexpected complications.

She spent many weeks in the intensive care unit. The emotional toil on my family was enormous. Charlet was eventually released back to the rehab facility, only to be hospitalized again. This time she did not recover and passed away just prior to the holiday season of 2004.

As I learned from my background in both swimming and gerontology, water can be beneficial for everyone.

But I've learned something else about the water: it's as good for the soul as it is for the body. The pool is where I nursed my mother back to health after heart surgery and where I retreated again for comfort after she passed.

The water is where I turned for comfort after Charlet passed, and it is where I will continue to go for solace in the years to come. The water embraces me and washes my tears away; it lightens my burdens as well as my body; it soothes me emotionally as well as physically. And, especially, it helps me remember my two mothers.

Today, when I look at my reflection in the pool, I see Charlet, my mother and all those who have touched my life and remember that their memories are what keep me afloat. And that is why I will forever return to the water for comfort--for in the water is my friend, my family, my home.

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Title Annotation:perspectives
Author:Katz, Jane
Publication:Aquatics International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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