BETHEL – As Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote, “As is a story, so is life: it is not how long it is, but how good it is that matters.”
When we talk about Hailey Steward, Hailey’s mother, Tabaitha Steward, talks about the time Hailey was in the children’s hospital and Steward had just bought her new bedding, as she always did to decorate Hailey’s room. Hailey told her mother to give it to the little girl in the next room. Steward did what her daughter wanted. That was the night Hailey died.
However, Hailey’s ghost is kept alive very well. Her mother upholds Hailey’s strong, passionate personality and continues to fight for children who are battling cancer. She’ll even be in the room with kids dying of cancer, giving them comfort because she knows Hailey would have wanted that.
Hailey had a wise soul and a big heart, her mother says. She loved to play truth or dare with her family. She would challenge her father in October to spray himself in the mud or challenge her mother to drink orange juice and milk. She was always doing things to make the other kids laugh or having water balloon fights with the nurses. She would write something positive on a sheet of paper and add a gift card, which she shoved under the door of other children’s rooms and said, guess who!
“She was perfection. I spent 10 years with her, I can’t imagine [them] without her,” says Steward.
For every time there should have been a milestone in Hailey’s life, Steward will stay in bed, unable to leave it. This year Hailey would have been a freshman. “Every milestone is hard for me. I just do what I can. I hear her, ‘Mommy, put on your big girl panties.’ If my daughter can get through that pain, so can I.”
The Go Gold event every Labor Day weekend is a major festival to raise awareness for childhood cancer. This year there was a block party, with a DJ, a food truck called ‘Shut up and Eat’, face painting and more. There was also a prize.
Every September, not just on Labor Day, all of Bethel is covered with golden flags. This is because Hailey used to say, “GO GOLD!” The gold ribbon was given to children with cancer.
“I like to spread her. She is not just a memory. She’s still there,’ says Steward. “Life sucks, but nothing is worse than a child with cancer that they have no control over. If you can smile a little, or pay it in advance, it makes some bad guys a little better.”