Happy 10th birthday.

My darling Zoey,
June 11 2017, you are all of 10 years old today. It’s been a decade since your dad and I embarked on a life-changing journey without having a clue of what was ahead. Today, we should be planning your sassy yet geeky big-girl birthday party. Maybe you would insist on having a sleepover with your friends at home or maybe your dada and I would have taken you to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower or maybe we’d all go to Hawaii for a good long vacation. Or I could be completely wrong and you’d surprise me and insist on a low-key birthday with your parents and little brother. Sadly, all of the above is occurring only in an alternate reality of mine . Even though that reality ceased to exist way back in 2012, for some unknown karmic destiny, I was forced to continue and breathe on.

So Zoey, your dada and I celebrate with you today in that alternate universe. We miss you like crazy … words fail to describe the feeling. Your little brothers love you as their Zoey Akka and they faces light up knowing its your birthday weekend. They’ve already eaten cake-pops, cupcakes and ice cream at several occasions during this past week ….and every time I smile and I think of your love for ice cream or just the frosting on the cake. This weekend a few of your favorite people visited us, your Asha Pita , Usha Pita and Avanti (Karthik’s aunts and cousin sister) . We laughed at how you always called them Pita instead of Patti (meaning grandma). We reminisced about the good-old days ….especially your pre-k graduation party in June 2012.

Zoey on her 5th birthday.[/caption]

Zoey, Zoey Zoey …. I could keep repeating your name loudly forever and ever. I’ve been asked several times in this past decade about the reason for naming you Zoey. See Zoey isn’t a name of Indian origin. Even after you passed away, many a times, readers of this blog have asked me the same question. So here’s the story behind your name sweetie-pie.

You were given to us after three heart-breaking miscarriages and a very tough pregnancy. For some reason you were always in hurry. At 20 weeks gestation you gave us a scare. We were told you if we didn’t intervene, you would be born in a few days. So your doctor decided to admit me to the hospital and keep me off my feet for the next 3.5 months of my life. I spent most of that time in a tiny hospital room, confined to the bed, praying and begging that you stayed inside safe and sound. I watched a ton of TV to keep myself occupied. So while laying in bed and watching TV I came across a show in which a woman is blessed with a baby girl after years of struggle and she goes on to name her Zoey. I immediately looked up the meaning of the name and loved it. The name Zoey is of Greek origin and it means “Life”. Such a perfect name for the one person who was about to come and breathe a new “life” into our existence. So I called your dad to ask him his opinion. I was still thinking about it, but your sweet dada loved the name instantly. I remember him proclaiming that from then on, Zoey was the only name for you. One and only one Zoey of ours. 4 letters and two perfect syllables. Zoey !

Zoey on her birthday

Every year for your birthday, your dad and I try to do something meaningful to support little kids suffering from cancer. So this year was no different. We celebrated your 10th birthday with a bunch of kids and their families on the oncology floor at the hospital you were treated. We did a make-your-own taco/bowl themed brunch, along with cupcakes and goody-bags for the little kids. I’m sure you were right there in your own way …..

Birthday cupcakes plus desert for her 10th birthday celebrations

I know today would have been entirely different, were you here physically with us. But since you had your own karmic journey (and I have mine) I will try to be happy with the 5.5 years I actually got with you. Your dad, your baby brothers and I will go to your favorite Krishna temple and maybe, just maybe, you will give us a glimpse, in your own magical way.

Happy 10th birthday my dear baby girl !. Love you and miss you to the moon and back , as always.
Your loving mama

Ab to forever

Ab to forever – One song infinite memories

This is about a song from a random Bollywood Hindi movie. It happens to be a dance number and there is absolutely nothing profound or meaningful about its lyrics or music. The title of the song “Ab to forever” means “now till the end of time”.

YouTube link to the song: https://youtu.be/uOcNutyyy20

My initial memories of this song, are of a young dad and his first-born baby girl. This movie was released in 2007, around the time our Zoey was born. I am also reminded of another beautiful number titled “Hey Shona” ( from the same movie), that Zoey’s dad sang while rocking his new-born to sleep. “Ab to forever” was introduced to her much later, probably when she was around 2 years old. I can still visualize Zoey’s dad playing it for her on his laptop while she danced away without any inhibitions, moving every inch of her tiny body. Such a fond memory this is. If only I could go back in time and record it ……

The next distinct memory I have, is of a mother and her daughter sitting on the family room couch. It is September 2012 and their perfect world has been turned upside down. The little girl has terminal brain cancer and the mom is on bed-rest trying to keep a life safe, inside of her. Both have limited mobility. One is by choice, to avoid pre-term labor and the other is restricted by the monster growing in her brain. But both have one thing in common, undying love for each other. In this memory of mine Zoey and I don’t dance. We sit on the couch and move our arms in unison while we replace the words of the chorus by the words “Bring it on, Bring it on, bring down you boo-boo”.
We had so much hope back then, that the boo-boo couldn’t harm our Zoey. How could our Zoey die just like that ? No that wasn’t something that happened to regular people like us. How wrong we were.

Zoey and I


Fast forward 9 weeks into November 2012. In this memory a mother is holding on tightly to her baby girl. The little girl can’t dance on her own due to the aggressive nature of her cancer but the her mom can. In this memory, I hold on to my life, my Zoey, and dance away with silent tears flowing down my face. If I stop dancing Zoey doesn’t like it and she reprimands me. She wants me to hug her and dance forever …..probably just like the song, till the end of time.

Zoey on me after dancing to Ab to forever

The next memory I have is of November 22nd 2012, three days before she took her last breath. Zoey is sitting in the center of our king sized bed. She is surrounded by all her loved ones. Her paternal grandparents, her maternal grandparents, her aunt, her uncle and her unfortunate parents. Her new-born brother is sleeping soundly in the adjacent room. This song is being played over and over till she is tired of it. Zoey is still able to move her body, while sitting up by herself on the bed. (which is a miracle in itself). Zoey finds that her Domi (my mom) is unable to sing (due to tears) and she demands “Domi is not singing. Sing Domi sing!”. And all the adults sing like they have never sung before. We are swaying to the music and smiling while completely being aware of the futility of our actions. No amount of dancing, praying, bargaining or begging is going to save our daughter. We are merely going through the motions just to keep our Zoey happy.
I am so grateful to her dad and her uncle, who actually recorded this memory of mine. I have watched the video several times in the past 4.5 years, and every single time, I am in complete awe of my spirited baby girl.

Zoey in that last week

These days Zoey’s little brothers and I listen to this song sometimes while having breakfast. We typically have some music playing as the boys pick on their breakfast. The boys recognize it as their beloved Akka’s song. As I persuade them to eat yet another bite, I realize that I am making new memories…… in the background plays “Ab to forever”.

And yes, my dear Zoey, I get it completely. Our love for each other is exactly that …….it will last from now till the end of time.
Your loving mom