I belong to a family blessed with baby girls. I have two sisters with me being sandwiched in the middle. Including both my paternal and maternal side, out of 15 cousins, 11 are girls :). Growing up, we kids were never alone, and never in need of the play-dates that we parents have to so frantically arrange for these days. The bond my two sisters and I have is something I cherish and am thankful for most days. I can share with them my happy, sad, bad or not-so-admirable thoughts/moments without being judged.
So naturally when Zoey was born in June 2007, I was thrilled. I always wanted my firstborn to be a girl. Since Zoey was born after a lot of heart-ache ( 3 first trimester miscarriages, a very tough bed-rest ridden pregnancy), I was convinced she would be our only. I was thankful for her and thought that she would be a perfect little sister to her cousin ( my older sister’s little girl), Anusha. However with us living in the US and my sister’s family in India, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. So we made sure the girls saw each other every week with use of modern technology and the World Wide Web. We skyped very often so that the girls knew each other. This paid off big time, especially when Zoey made her first trip to India in 2008, at the age of 8 months. Anusha instantly took to Zoey and clearly was a natural at being that big sister to Zoey. Here is a picture of the 2 of them when they met for the very first time.
They got to meet each other after a year for my baby sister’s wedding in 2009 and again they were inseparable. They ran around the wedding hall, partners-in-crime, the little one running behind the big one shouting out “Anusha Akka”. “Akka” in my mother tongue means a big sister. They had so much fun.
After that India trip, my sister’s family visited us in spring of 2011. By this time Zoey was almost 4 and Anusha was almost 8. So it was a perfect age to hang out, play, go outside to those bouncy play houses, shop in the malls, go to the aquarium etc. We made a trip to Dallas to visit my baby sister as well. These two girls had a blast for 3 whole weeks. They got pampered by my parents and just did almost everything together. We even squeezed in a trip Disney together. It was a perfect little vacation for all of us and am so grateful we got to see those fun times with Zoey and Anusha. They were clearly so fond of each other.
Zoey did not know the difference between cousin and sibling at the time. I believe she told one of her preschool teachers that she has an older sister who was 8 years old. I was shocked when the teacher asked me how my older child was doing ? She hadn’t realized that Zoey was speaking about her cousin who lived thousands of miles away at the other end of the world.
Naturally I assumed these kids will have each other and be there for each other no matter where we lived in the world. Distance wouldn’t matter. My sister and I would always try to keep these girls in touch. These cousins would be there for each other as they grew up in different worlds. Again that was my hope.
However that hope of mine was crushed when Zoey got diagnosed with the worst pediatric brain cancer there is. Cancer not only took away my child, it took away my dreams of seeing these girls bond over time. It cruelly snatched away what I had so easily taken for granted growing up. While I grieve the loss of my only daughter and the profound loss that my son will never know his sister the way we did, I also mourn the loss of this sisterly love that would have resulted in beautiful bond over the years. Anusha still continues to be that awesome big sister to Anay. When I took Anay to India in 2013, Anusha spent all her time babying her tiny brother who is nearly 9 years younger than her. But the camaraderie and companionship, she and her little sister shared was so obviously missing. Zoey’s absence was felt very deeply. Cancer took her away from all of us and we will never ever be the same.