As their baby son, Easton, starts taking his first swimming lessons, Bode and Morgan Miller reflected on TODAY Thursday about the joy of having him in their lives as they heal from the drowning death of their 19-month-old daughter.
The couple welcomed Natalie Morales to the pool to watch 6-month-old Easton undergo water safety training and to open up about the impact of his birth on their lives during a difficult time.
"I mean, having a baby, even though it's not gonna fill that hole, it adds that much more love,'' Morgan said on TODAY Thursday. "And that is a blessing. And for the kids to be able to experience that love again, and life after death, it's a way to heal."
Easton's birth came four months after the death of their daughter, Emmy, who drowned in a neighbor's pool in June.
She remains a constant presence in the family's hearts and lives.
"It's been a learning process for all of us, I think,'' Bode said while holding back tears. "But, yeah, she's definitely still around."
"She is still very much a part of this family,'' Morgan said.
Photos of her can be found all around their home, and they recently made her an Easter basket on Sunday as they celebrated the holiday with their children. The couple also have an older son, Nash, 3, and Bode has a daughter, Neesyn, 11, and son, Sam, 6, from previous relationships.
The couple has made it their mission to raise water safety awareness for children so no other parents endure the anguish they've felt.
"I think if you talk to any parent who's lost a child to drowning, the research that you start to do — where I saw 6-month-old babies and 1-year-olds and 16-month-olds, 19-month-olds swimming — that could've been Emmy," Morgan said.
"That should've been Emmy. And it was that easy to commit to one session of what we're doing now. It would've changed everything."
The Millers are now urging other parents to use Infant Swimming Resource to find a trained instructor in their local area.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Morgan shared an emotional message on her Instagram Stories Tuesday as she watched Easton undergo his first lesson in the pool.
"I cried tears of hope watching my baby boy learn this life saving skill...and then tears of sadness because it was all I had to do to keep my baby girl here,'' she wrote.
Natalie joined the couple as they watched Easton learn important skills from trained Infant Swimming Resource instructor Michael Petrella.
"So at 6 months old, we're gonna learn how to roll back and float, and maintain that floating position, which, of course, is a lifesaver,'' Petrella told TODAY. "So the difference between life and death is about three inches face down to face up. So we really need him to know that getting to his back, and resting, and breathing is where he needs to be to save himself."
Easton will be taking lessons for 10 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, for about a month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children start water safety lessons when they turn a year old, but the Millers wanted to get Easton started as soon as it was safely possible.
"As parents, one of the things that we know is our job to prepare our children for the situation, and not the situation for the child,'' Morgan said. "And this is one of those things where water is the most dangerous situation that they can encounter. And it is 100% unavoidable. ... Water is everywhere."
The Millers are also hoping that by spreading awareness of the dangers, water safety becomes a topic parents discuss with their pediatricians.
"I'm hoping that the pediatrician says, 'Do you have a plan, and are you doing the right stuff?''' Bode said.
They are now making sure Emmy's death can at least help other parents to avoid a similar tragedy.
"I love that we have the opportunity to change and show parents,'' Morgan said. "Had I known then what I know now, this is what I would do, and let my mistake be yours. Learn from it."