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

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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

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

Happy 9th Birthday

My Dear Zoey,
Today you would have turned 9. Yes all of 9. I wonder how you would look as a 9 year old girl? You’d probably look gorgeous with that straight black hair, a beautiful smile going from cheek to cheek and those big honey-bun eyes….. I still remember how a stranger saw you at age 2 and complimented “Look at those big eyes … They are cathedral windows to the soul.” I now understand it completely. You were an old and beautiful soul. You were so wise, intelligent and empathetic beyond your years. You were just, kind and generous and loved anyone and everyone that came your way. I remember clearly an incident that happened at your preschool.
I believe it was Halloween and you had made those little goody bags for every kid in your classroom. You were distributing them among the kid’s bins, and due to my impeccable ability to count, you were short by one. You seemed a bit sad that you wouldn’t get to take one home. ( And yes you had so painstakingly assembled them the previous night) . So in an attempt to not upset you, without giving it a second thought, I did something that I’m not proud of. I took one bag from this other kid’s bin and put it in yours. You gave me such a disappointed and sad look. You looked at me and said without hesitation “But mom that’s not right. This kid won’t get to take one home.” I was surprised and quickly realized what I had just done. You almost said “Mom don’t steal.” You put me right back in my place. All of 4 years old then…. I still remember it so clearly. We left all the goody bags there and I promised you a another treat to make up for the one you were missing. I remember coming home and proudly mentioning it to your dad. Yes baby girl, you had great moral fiber and you definitely didn’t get that from me.

Today you should have turned 9. The world is missing the beautiful person you would have been. It is our loss , our completely irrecoverable loss. We weren’t destined to see you grow past 5 and 1/2 years and with so much difficulty I say this, it’s our unfortunate destiny. To survive your loss, is unimaginable, but we are doing it one day at a time. It’s a constant heartache that will last a lifetime. The only hope that makes this grief remotely bearable is the hope that we will see you and be with you in the afterlife.

So today there won’t be a typical 9-year-old’s birthday celebration at our home. Instead in your memory, kids on the pediatric oncology floor at the hospital at which you were treated, will be enjoying some toys and sweet treats. And about 300 kids that are undergoing cancer treatment in India will get books and school supplies via the Samiksha Foundation. Hope you like what we do for your birthday every year. Hope you are proud of us and we aren’t letting you down.
As far as your brothers, your dada and I are concerned, we will have a low-key day at home with your memories, lots of ice cream, chocolate and pizza ( pizza being your brothers all-time favorite).

Love you baby girl. Have a fantastic birthday with your little Krishna wherever you are. Know that your mom and dad think of you every waking minute and love you to the moon and back.

As always.
Your loving mom
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8th birthday

Zoey would have been 8 years old today, June 11 2015.

8 years ago, her dad and I welcomed this bundle of joy, without an inclination of how she would completely turn our lives around. Today is a day of mixed emotions. While I’d like to reflect on her beautiful memories, it is also a constant reminder of what life has taken away from me. It is said that time heals all wounds. How I wish that was true. I truly want to heal and live without this constant heartache. But, as the days, months and years go by, we only become good at pretending and coping with the grief. However this grief, like love, is for a lifetime. It’s constant, undying and dormant, like a volcano waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation.

These days I reflect on how my life has turned out. 8 years back I was so sure of so many things. I was sure I’d have this beautiful little girl to love, cuddle , hold all my life. I was sure of this little person, that I would wake up next to every morning and be the one to tuck in every night. I was looking forward to her going to school, college and becoming the “ballerina paleontologist” that she always said she wanted to be. I was sure that between the two of us ( Zoey and I) I’d be first to make that leap beyond this physical world. But this girl of mine had other plans for herself and her parents. Life had something else in store for us.
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Just like that, Zoey’s dad and I were transformed from daughter doting (obsessing) parents to parents of two adorable little boys. As you may already be aware that we have recently moved to India for a few years. We have been busy with relocation and especially with two toddlers, it definitely isn’t an easy task. It’s been over 2.5 years since she left us, and it’s as if every aspect of my life has changed completely. I feel this is a new life, a life so different from the one I had thought of 8 years back. However amidst all this change my Zoey still manages to touch our lives everyday. Her little things linger on and make their presence felt in our daily routine. Like a little pink pillow that still finds its place right in the center of our king size bed. Her pink felt sandals still find a place in our shoe closet. Neither Karthik nor I would ever want to keep them away. Her baby blanket has become source of comfort for her baby brother. He hugs it , cuddles it and has it with him all day.He calls it his “blankie” and he refuses to sleep without it. Her baby spoons, forks and her “Snow White” themed lunch box are all a staple sight in my kitchen. Her legacy i.e. her favorite books are all kept safely, waiting to be read by her baby brothers. Her little Dora chair and Elmo table have found their places respectively in the boys play area. And how could I forget her pink checked blanket that is lining her little brother’s crib. Oh the list could go on and on. Zoey is everywhere in our household. Her pictures adorn the walls of our home, and her beautiful memories fill our hearts.

Today is the day she should have turned 8. For the last 2 years on her birthday, Zoey’s dad and I have tried to reach out and help other little children suffering from cancer. It’s something we believe our benevolent daughter would want us to do…. Help other kids with this boo-boo called cancer. So we have found a NGO in Bangalore that works solely with children suffering from cancer. This foundation called Samiksha, primarily focuses on recreational and spiritual development of the children affected by this disease. Children miss out a lot ( school, play time, time with friends ) when they are in treatment, especially if they need to be confined to a hospital bed. So this year on Zoey’s 8th birthday, her dad and I are taking drawing books, coloring crayons, sketch pens and other stationary to be gifted to kids via this foundation. After that we will most likely have her favorite ice cream with her baby brothers and grandparents at home. We may even order in some Gobi Manchurian ( her favorite Indo-Chinese appetizer made from cauliflower ) :).

Zoey, my beautiful, forever-5 , “Krishna” obsessing, baby girl. Happy 8th birthday in heaven. You have no idea how much you are missed and loved every second of the day.
And as always, love you to the moon and back.

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Rainbow babies

Have you heard of the term rainbow baby.

A โ€œrainbow babyโ€ is a baby born following a pregnancy loss or the death of a child. Urban Dictionary defines a rainbow baby as the following:

In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison. The storm (child loss) has already happened and nothing can change that experience. Storm clouds might still be overhead as the family continues to cope with the loss, but something colorful and bright has emerged from the darkness and misery.

I really like the meaning.

Zoey was a rainbow baby.Zoey was born to us after 3 miscarriages and a very tough pregnancy. We thought we would lose her every step of the way, but she made it and completely changed our life. Yes cancer took away my rainbow baby. Hard to believe we had endure so much to get her, and then in 12 short weeks, it was all over. Sometimes I wonder, if I had been told the future, that my first-born would die in front of my eyes, would I still go ahead and have her? And surprisingly the answer is always a resounding YES. I’d take any time I got with her, be a minute, a day , a year or 5 years.

Anay. My darling boy. Anay isn’t rainbow baby. But he couldn’t have timed his arrival better. He arrived just 25 days before his Zo Akka passed away. It’s as if she handed her poor parents to her baby brother and left, knowing we will survive. He definitely was that much-needed rainbow, not only to Karthik and I, but to all of Zoey’s loved ones. He gave us all the reasons to get out of bed every morning during that miserable time. So yes he definitely qualifies to be that rainbow baby.

Hari, my Zoey’s Hari is a rainbow baby ๐Ÿ™‚ . All of 9 months old, he has become such an invaluable addition to our family. He is that adoring little baby, admiring his brother’s every move, learning, processing, absorbing everything he can. When he babbles “aka aka aka”, my heart believes he is playing with his Zo Akka.
During the last 9 months, many a time, I have heard well wishers say that we will have a girl baby again. I know these people are speaking from the goodness of their heart. However today I’d like to address that sentiment.

I think most people who think this way, probably believe that having a girl again will somehow reduce the void we feel after Zoey’s passing. Or may be they think having a girl baby again will give Karthik and I an opportunity to redo things we did with Zoey. First of all let me tell you, I don’t miss having a girl, I miss my first-born child who happens to be girl. I miss the energy that is Zoey. And second of all there is no replacing Zoey. Never.

I’m thankful for Hari, who happens to look and behave like his older sister, and irrespective of gender I’m grateful to him for having chosen me as his mom. I have come to realize that the body is just the body. While we are all immortal, the body is completely perishable. I’ve experienced that first hand with my Zoey. Gender is just one characteristic of the body. It has taken me a long time for me to accept this fact and to truly surrender to what life has thrown at me. Whether I am destined to mother a girl again, I don’t know. And I definitely don’t want to know. I know that I will always be a mom of a beautiful 5-year-old girl for the rest of my life. But today my role is to be that mom to these two darling boys. And I know for sure that this is exactly what my baby girl would want from her mama.

Coming back to my baby girl, the only reason for this blog’s existence. I miss every ounce of her. It’s crazy that in spite of being as busy as I am, I feel the void constantly. To list a few things I miss doing with Zozo:

Shopping with her was a pleasure. She would accompany me everywhere and give her opinions about what looked good on me and what didn’t ๐Ÿ™‚ yes my 4-year-old did that.

Little shopper

Little shopper

Library visits with Zoey. She had an innate interest in books. Loved the library and I took her there every chance I got.

Visits to the playground in the evenings. Yes I miss that a lot. Taking her to play outside in playground, especially in summers ๐Ÿ™‚

Playing

Playing

Zoey-mommy night-out. I’d pick her up from daycare and head to her favorite restaurant and then some ice cream. It was so much fun and I’d look forward to it all day.

Zoey’s deep hugs. Yes when she hugged you, she literally sunk into you. How I miss that hug.

Dancing with Zoey. Zoey loved dancing. Any chance she got, she’d get up and dance. Every time I hear Adele’s “Rolling in the deep”, I picture her singing “We could have had it all”, dancing to every beat of that song.

I could just go on and on. I love u Zoey, as always, to the moon and back. By the way your little brother says it too. He says it slowly spelling each word. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Last Fall

I have been wanting to write for such a long time , but just haven’t been able to sit down for 5 minutes to get my thoughts in order. Life has changed once again. Our family ( parents and in-laws) left for India after supporting us for nearly 8 months through my pregnancy and the time thereafter. Yes we are extremely blessed to have that kind of love and support from our aging parents. So all of a sudden I find myself fumbling through the day trying to establish a new routine for these kids. You can say, I’m a busy mom of two little but extremely naughty boys…. One is almost 2 years and the other is almost 6 months. And let me tell you it’s quite a contrast to being a mom to my sweet Zoey. My well-behaved , ever pleasing , ready to pick a book and sit down, Zoey. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. My boys are my life. This house is filled with laughter and joy because of them and I am eternally grateful that they chose me as their mom. But oh boy, I do miss the calmer, less chaotic times when my Zoey was here. And yes I miss her. Plain and simple, I miss her every second of the day.

So Fall is finally here. I see the trees change color in hues of red, bright orange and yellow. I see leaves falling. I see pumpkins everywhere. Halloween is around the corner. Several of our Indian festivals like Diwali and Navratri are also celebrated in the months of October and November. So with the advent of all these festivities, my thoughts go back to her. How she just LOVED it all. The pumpkin painting, the hay rides, the apple picking, the Halloween costumes, candy corn, decorating the house with lights for Diwali, the dressing up in traditional Indian clothes for festivals etc. You name it. She loved it. As I start planning Halloween with my almost 2-year-old son, my thoughts go back to her last Halloween and Fall with us.

We had visited Barcelona, Spain, a few months back and she had picked a beautiful red colored flamenco dancer dress from there. She had been saving it for Halloween of 2012. But that summer she got diagnosed with the worst pediatric brain cancer there is ( DIPG ). After her diagnosis she spent all her time with me. As I look back in introspection, I am grateful for the time she gave me. Those 12 weeks in fall were filled with farm trips, pumpkin patches and doing things she absolutely loved to do.

Due to hurricane Sandy the town postponed Halloween celebrations to the first week of November. By then her tumor had sneakily started to progress. She must have felt its effects , though she never complained to us. She wasn’t going to let some stinking tumor ruin Halloween for her. She insisted on going trick-or-treating as a flamenco dancer with her father. She held her dad’s hand and went to a few houses, and said trick-or-treat with a huge smile on her face. This was about 15 days before she passed away.

Also the last Diwali with her is something that Karthik and I will always cherish….. It was around the 13th of November ( 12 days before she passed away). It had been confirmed by an MRI that my baby would die soon. It could be days, weeks or months …but the tumor was growing aggressively. We had just returned home, disgusted feeling completely hopeless, from that MRI. We were supposed to celebrate Diwali that evening, but given the circumstances, no one seemed to be in a mood. My girl was surprised. She insisting on lighting diyas all over the house. It was Diwali and how could we just sit around and not do anything. It was her first and last Diwali with her baby brother.

Zoey in her favorite Indian attire: Diwali 2011.

Zoey in her favorite Indian attire: Diwali 2011.

Here are a few pictures from the last Fall with my Zozo.

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Zoey in her flamenco dancer costume :))  Last Halloween with Zozo.

Zoey in her flamenco dancer costume :))
Last Halloween with Zozo.

Exactly a week before she passed away at sesame with mamma.

Exactly a week before she passed away at sesame with mamma.

My girl who lived life to the fullest, made every moment count and didn’t let that monster dictate terms to her. My girl, who showed me what true strength, courage and patience was. Yes my super hero, my inspiration and my one and only one Zozo.
Love you always and forever,
Your mamma

Why this skeptic went to a medium

I have been wondering about this blog of mine. It’s been a year since I posted my first article on this blog. Why do I blog? I write because I want to remember every little bit about my baby girl. I write because I don’t want her to be forgotten. I write because I think it is free therapy for her poor mom’s broken heart. And yes of-course I write to increase awareness for pediatric cancers like DIPG. So far, I have written about her when she was with us as Zoey. I have written about her short 5.5 years, her diagnosis, her fight to stay alive, and the spirituality she experienced during that journey. I have written about my heartache and the grief that completely takes over and brings me down on my knees. But I haven’t written about her in her afterlife. What happened to my Zoey after she passed away ? What happens to that spark of life when the body shuts down. It is my belief that her undying spirit, her soul is still alive and is continuing to live, but just not in a physical form that we can feel and perceive.
So naturally after she passed away, I needed to know how she was doing. I needed to believe in the signs that seemed to come from her, especially on days when I would need it the most. And that’s what brought me and Karthik to see a medium.

For those who don’t know, a medium is a person that can communicate with the spiritual world. Yes that does sound suspicious. The old me would have laughed at something like this. I’d probably think the person is just making it all up, because, really, how many of us think of the spiritual world? I hadn’t given it a second thought before Zoey’s passing.

So yes Karthik and I went to see a medium. Karthik did a lot of research and found someone in the north Jersey area. He called to take an appointment, and we got in about a month later. We did not give any details about us or Zoey over the phone. When the day came to go see the medium, we were very excited. We were hoping to talk and communicate with our girl. Would our girl come to see us ? How was she on the other side ?

So after an hour-long drive, we reached the church where the medium practiced. After we reached, we were directed to a small office where she welcomed us. She only asked us our names and birth dates. Then she closed her eyes, and said she was seeing a little child with sparkling bright eyes…. She told us the child was being looked after by her great grandmothers, ( mine and karthik’s deceased grandma’s). She asked us if we had an infant son back home, because the child was telling her a lot about her baby brother. Then she told us things that only our Zoey could have whispered in her ears. A few things that hit home were the lullaby I sang to her in my mother tongue every night or the details of a painting she loved, that hung in our family room. Once the medium convinced us that we were indeed communicating with our baby, she asked, if we had any questions for Zoey. We asked her if she was happy? We asked if we would see her again. To both she answered with a resounding YES. We asked her if we could have done anything different when she was alive. We were told we couldn’t have done anything different and all of this was meant to be. We told her we missed her like crazy. We told her, we loved her. Then my Zoey went on to make a few predictions. Zoey told us a lot about her baby brother. That he would have a beautiful smile and would be very interested in music. She specifically mentioned that, Karthik and I would receive a gift with angel wings and when we receive it we should know it was from her.
We returned from the medium visit with a heavy heart, missing our baby, but knowing that she was happy and well taken care of, on the other side.
About 15 months after she passed away we received the following portrait made by a friend of a friend.

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I nor Karthik have met this artist in person. Nor has she met Zoey. The artist has only seen a picture of Zoey. However she and Zoey were communicating after Zoey’s demise and this is a portrait of my Zoey in her afterlife. I am forever indebted to this soulful person for painting my Zoey. Yes my Zoey, bright, beautiful, with sparkling eyes , with wings, surrounded by dolphins and absolutely free from her physical body. This is by far the most beautiful and precious gift I have ever received or will ever receive in the future. I am forever thankful to the artist and my Zozo for making this portrait happen.
Remember our Zoey had said “gift with wings” …..I am a true believer of the afterlife.
To my baby, my love, my Zoey.
As always, your mom.

“Death is not extinguishing the light. It is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come” ~~ Rabindranath Tagore

Another birthday without the birthday girl

I remember the night from 7 years ago like it was yesterday. The night that changed my life forever. That Monday night when Zoey decided to make her appearance, with her head full of thick black hair and sparkling big brown eyes. One look at her and I was in love like never before.

Had cancer not intervened, Zoey would have been 7 years old today. She would have just finished first grade and would have been looking forward to a summer filled with fun and laughter. She would have insisted on being girly and geeky at the time.She would have insisted on some fun themed birthday party with her school friends. She would have picked her own party favors and would have hand written all the thank you notes herself. She would have insisted on only eating the frosting of the cake, while leaving the rest of the cake for me or her Dada to finish later. Karthik and I would have taken her out for her celebratory birthday dinner and she would have ordered her favorite buttered penne pasta, especially mentioning the cheese on the side. The dinner would have been followed by a trip to her favorite ice cream shop. She would have had so much fun with her baby brother Anay. Anay would have been her tail running after her, calling her “Zo Akka”. Every morning he wakes up and blows flying kisses to his one and only one “Zo Akka”.

God knows what else she would have done in the last 18 months that she hasn’t been with us. God only knows what kind of experiences and opportunities we missed since her life was cut short so cruelly. Thanks to cancer she will forever be 5 years old.

However today is not about cancer. I will not focus on the monster that took her away. I will not focus on the poor funding for childhood cancer or request you to donate towards pediatric cancer research. I will not focus on the fact that 7 kids die of cancer everyday. Instead I will cherish the memories I have of her. I’ll reflect on all the birthdays we were blessed to have her with us. I’ll eat her favorite candy, I’ll lick the frosting on the cake, and talk about her to her baby brothers, Anay and Hari. Karthik and I are also going to honor her by distributing her favorite books and cupcakes at the pediatric oncology floor where she spent the last few days of her short life.

Zoey, my baby, I wish you were here and I wish you never had to leave. I wish I could celebrate all your birthdays all over again… I wish I never had to write this blog post. .. Happy birthday my love. Love you and miss you as always.
Your mom forever

Zoey on her birthday over the years:
Zoey the day she was born:
Zoey on the day she was born

Zoey on her first birthday:
1st birthday

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Zoey on her 2nd birthday:
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Zoey on her 3rd birthday:
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Zoey on her 4th birthday: with her very own bike.
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Zoey on her 5th birthday: ( last one we were blessed with)
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18 months and counting

18 months since I felt her warm embrace, felt her soft skin against my cheeks, or listened to her sing and say “I love you too mom”. Yes 18 whole months and god knows how many more to come. It’s unimaginably scary, ….. To live a lifetime without her by my side. And yet here I am surviving this nightmare one day, one moment at a time.

18 months and so much has happened. Those of you that follow us on Facebook are already aware of our latest addition to the family. Our third child, Zoey and Anay’s baby brother, a.k.a Zoey’s little Hari made his arrival earlier this month. I call him Zoey’s little blessing because I feel the universe gave us back, a small part of my Zoey’s undying spirit. Moreover I truly believe that he is here only because of my Zozo. While it will never ever be the same as having my Zoey here with us, it definitely is a soothing balm for the broken heart. I am thankful for both Anay and now Zoey’s Hari for having that effect on me.

So yes all of sudden life has gotten busier with 2 little boys at home. And being busy is good since it keeps the mind occupied. However grief always has a way of creeping in. I am beginning to realize that this grief will never go away. We ( the bereaved ) live in 2 worlds. The world that once was…. With my beautiful daughter in it, and the other world that is today. I am also beginning to realize that the number of people who knew my Zoey will only decrease as the years go by. In fact when I meet strangers these days, I guess I appear as a happy mom of two young boys. They have no idea of my Zoey. Zoey is mentioned only if I insist on bringing her up in a conversation. Even then people don’t really know my Zoey. They just nod their head, shrug their shoulders and express their condolences … And the conversation moves on to a more pleasant and less awkward topic, than my dead daughter.
So yes that world with her in it, with Karthik and me as her parents seems like a beautiful dream, while the present is completely unrecognizable. A good friend once told me that the only way to survive, is to find a balance between the 2 worlds. So yes every day is a struggle to find that balance. It’s a struggle to find the strength to do what’s required daily without letting oneself wallow in the past. It’s a struggle to provide a happy and cheerful home for our boys. I see me struggle, I see her dad struggle and I see all her loved ones struggle and suffer every single day. I guess it’s something that we will get better at hiding over time. But nevertheless the gaping hole or the void that my Zoey left us with, will always be there.

So it is Memorial Day today. I remember Memorial day 2012 like it was yesterday. Zoey was so excited to make a trip to the beach that weekend. We had been contemplating that trip since I was still in my 1st trimester. However I am so grateful that we went. Because it was our last holiday together as a family of 3, as Zoey, Mama and Dada. We went to Cape May, NJ for the weekend. We spent all our waking hours at the beach. Here is a picture of my girl enjoying that weekend. Here is a picture of the family that once was.

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Unfortunately we never got to go again as that beautiful family of 3. That family of 3 only exists in pictures, videos and our memories. When I see those pictures or videos, it’s like watching an old nostalgic movie ….. With tears streaming down my face.
Right now the task at hand is the adjust to life as a family of 5.With two boys and memories of my beautiful girl. Again it’s something I will accomplish one day, one moment at time.
Love you and miss you loads my Zozo, as usual to the moon and back, to the moon and back.