On your 9th birthday

Losing Zoey to the deadliest pediatric brain cancer there is, has opened my eyes to a lot of things I never imagined I’d experience in this lifetime. Yes there is this undying grief and heartache that I feel constantly. But there are so many positive experiences as well. I say positive because it has helped me grow spiritually and understand this universe in a way, I never would have, had my girl been alive. One of those positive life experiences is to look and feel beyond the physical nature of our existence. I have come to believe in the afterlife. The physical form is just clothing and we all shed this clothing when we die. But our soul/spirit never dies. It continues to live and blossom. We are so caught up in the physical and material nature of our existence that we cannot see the concrete signs and messages sent by our loved ones from the other side. It has truly been a very humbling, and pleasantly surprising life experience. I typically don’t write about this aspect of my life because I don’t think I am capable of capturing its emotions completely. However I’m going to try to pen one such incident that happened on the day Zoey would have turned 9. I’m doing this for her baby brother Anay and her amazing dad. I want Anay to know how much he was and will continue to be loved by his gorgeous big sister, his one and only one: Zoey Akka.

So it was supposed to be Zoey’s 9th birthday. We had told the boys it was their Akka’s birthday and so like every child’s birthday, Anay wondered about the birthday celebrations. Every time he asked for Zoey my heart broke a little. How to tell a toddler that his big sister passed away from the deadliest pediatric brain cancer there is ? We have always told Anay, that Zoey is playing with her little Krishna and that she lives on the moon. Most days he seems happy with that answer, however on her birthday he probably thought he would actually get to see her in person. He kept asking for her. After we dropped cupcakes and toys at the hospital, we decided to go to her favorite Krishna temple in Edison, NJ.

This one place was very dear to her and her dad. She visited this temple all the time with her dada, especially during those difficult 12 weeks, post diagnosis. She would give flying kisses to the deity there and claim how she was in love with “her Krishna”.( I truly believe it was her undying faith in HIM that kept her so normal till the end.) So when Anay asked again to see Zoey, Karthik told him, he would see her at the temple.

At the temple Karthik, Anay and I sat right in front of the deity to pray. Anay was sitting on his dad’s lap, while the littlest one (Hari) was happily running around in circles. Anay asked for Zoey again. Karthik pointed straight at the deity in front of him and said “Zoey Akka is right there with Krishna”. Just as he said that, a little girl (about 4 years old) tip-toed in front of us to enter the restricted area near the deity, while looking straight at Anay, smiling. Anay pointed at her and said “That’s Zoey Akka”. Karthik and I didn’t know what to say to this boy of ours. While we were still wondering what to tell our child, her parents came and took her away from the restricted area. Anay was convinced he saw Zoey Akka.
We spent the remaining time at the temple reminiscing about our beautiful baby girl and thanking the Lord for blessing us abundantly with our children. On our way out I noticed the little girl’s dad was distributing sweets to everyone. I overheard him say that it was his daughter’s birthday as well. Then it dawned on me “That’s my Zoey”. It was Zoey’s way of making sure Anay gets to see her on her birthday. It was her gift to her ‘soccer ball’ and her dada on her birthday. As I realized this, I was filled with overwhelming gratitude at the turn of events, and once again, felt so much pride at what she had just accomplished. I know, I am her mom and so I tend to be biased , but I think I have an amazing child . Don’t I ?

Yes to an analytical mind, all these events may seem like a mere coincidence. But let me tell you, we have never met a child on his/her birthday at this temple before and we visit that temple every Sunday. Also it is one strong coincidence for us to be at the temple at the same time as this family on their child’s birthday, and for the girl to look at Anay and give a knowing smile and for Anay to claim he saw Zoey in her. I mean any one of these incidents could have happened at a different time and the outcome wouldn’t be the same.

My lovely and amazing Zoey, thank you for showing us how much you love and care for your little brother. We missed you a lot on your birthday ( like everyday ). But we know you are there when we need you and you are always around your little brothers, playing and dancing with them ( just like you promised soccer-ball in November 2012). Sometimes your poor mom gets jealous and she wishes to trade places with your brothers. She has no doubt that they see you and play with you all the time. If only your mom’s grown-up eyes could see you as well.
Love you baby girl. To the moon and back as always.

That family of 4 (10 days prior to her passing). Look at Zoey adoring her little soccer-ball.
Family of 4

Zoey and I after she got to see her soccer-ball via ultrasound:
Zoey and I


6 thoughts on “On your 9th birthday


  2. Dear Suman ,
    You are enjoig and celebrating Zoey on a daily basis. if you give me the allowance to share my opinion, what I will say is that you have cognitively resolved the “so called’ loss so brilliantly , but I am not sure if the same has happened emotionally . That is very important.If it has not happened, time is ripe for you to do that with the help of some good NLP practitioner there and it does not take much time .

    Pl bear with me for unsolicited advice / suggestion .

    Lots of affection to Karthik , you and the children .

    Warm regards,
    Gp Capt P Venugopal SC ( Retd)
    #524 JVT

    • Hi Uncle – Hope you’re doing well. Not sure I agree with you on that one, since there is no “resolution” per se…especially in the case of a parent losing her child. The Gita tells us that it is perfectly natural to have emotions (we are human after all), the issue resides with being emotional. In Suman, I see a mother who has taken her grief and pivoted it towards an emotion that is way stronger than grief, i.e. love. If you see the evolution of her blogging it has moved from a grief-stricken mom to an overpoweringly grateful mom for the blessings that are her two little boys. The very fact that she leverages this blog as a mechanism to share her feelings demonstrates a high degree of poise and resolution to not let her emotions get in the way of doing her karma.

      Warm Regards,

  3. As you pray and believe you realize the little ways God talks to you. To the layman these are mere “coincidences”. The power of prayer and Sharanagadhi is brilliant. I remember saying your daughter is in a better place when this blog was started as all the references to her “krishna” was obvious. She is with the lord. She is in a better place. Please keep praying and reading and as that is the best we can do in the kali yugam. I hope it helps to know that there are people you dont know who do pray and think of you. Best wishes to your little ones who saved your sanity. I am not much of a writer but decided to write today as this post moved me and brought tears. Btw I am Laksh’s friend (Philly with twins)

  4. Dear Suman,

    Thank you for sharing your Zoey with us. So beautifully written and such purity of expression. Though we live far apart, I hope I am fortunate to meet you some day. Karthik and you are such inspiring people.
    Thank you again for this wonderful blog.


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