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THE MIRACLE WORKER Rachel Hackney prepares to jump into the sea offshore of Cozumel, with Melon Dash waiting in the water. Contributed photo A PERSONAL SWIMMING EXPERIENCE TEACHES WRITER ABOUT MELON DASH'S GIFTS By Rachel Brown Hackney Editor When I was 9 years old, I lost my younger sis- ter to cancer. Months later, when my family went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a few days so my dad could attend a veterinary medical conference, my mother took the opportunity to sign me up for private swimming lessons in the hotel pool. The instructor was patient, kind and quite handsome, I thought, so I was having a blast — until he started encouraging me to swim in the deep end. My mother panicked. She couldn't swim, and she couldn't bear the idea of losing another child. Her fear became my fear. I managed to pass the swim test in college, thanks to another very patient instructor, but I was uncomfortable in deep water. It didn't matter that I could swim well enough to get from one end of the pool to the other. Fortunately, I married someone who grew up on the banks of a river in North Carolina, a man who claims his "webbed feet will dry out" if he strays too far from the water. With his patience and love, I finally overcame most of the vestiges of that fear in deep water.

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