May 2018

It’s been almost 6 months since my last blog post. I’ve been meaning to write and I thought about it almost every day, but something or the other got in the way. Several excuses …. changes in the work front, family visiting from India, day-to-day activities for the boys… . they are just that ”excuses”. I have been feeling very guilty all along for not being able to carve out the time for my little girl. Like I let her down somehow. Like I made other things more important in this mundane life of mine. So here I am again. It’s May 2018. Anay is five and a half and hari will be four this month. A part of me feels that time is flying by way to fast, and the other part of me …the one waiting to go be with her, feels like it’s crawling at a snail’s pace. How could it only 5.5 years since I heard her beautiful voice, or felt her warm hugs, or felt her silky hair…… the list could go on forever. It feels like an entire lifetime has gone by….

That being said, this week was very bittersweet. I had to go to my older boy’s kindergarten orientation … and I was right back there with Zoey in May of 2012 ( for her kindergarten orientation). I relived that day all over again and it brought back some not-so-happy memories. See as parents we try our best to do what’s right for our kids. Sometimes we may have moments that we aren’t proud of….. I remembered one such moment with my Zoey. Zoey was excited about starting kindergarten. She loved the prospect of going to her “big girl” school and accompanied me happily. However she seemed a bit upset when it was over. I was in a hurry to head back home. (Aren’t we all in a hurry all the time?) She refused to follow me to the car and then insisted that she be lifted in my arms. I was four months pregnant with her brother on modified bed-rest and so coul dn’t accommodate her request. The sad part is that I don’t remember sitting down with her to understand why she was upset. Maybe she was tired after a long day. Maybe she was just being a headstrong 4-year-old. Unfortunately I only remember being really annoyed with her.

So I took my boy to his orientation this week. He loves his current school and the idea of going to some new school isn’t appealing to him. So after a lot of persuasion he accompanied me reluctantly. Every attempt of mine to cheer him up and try to get him excited about his new school was met with his obvious refusal to even consider the place. A few friends from his current school were there as well. I asked him to join them to which he flat-out refused. He sat there, next to me, holding my hand, observing everyone around him. As I sat next to him , I was reminded again of my girl. I was reminded of the lesson she taught me. I know first hand … how brittle everything is ….what is there here today may not even exist tomorrow. And that it’s OK if he doesn’t like this school. He is here with me now and that’s all that matters. I made sure he knew I will always be with him in case he was worried about being left alone there. I told him multiple times that he would be just fine. Finally after the first 15 mins, he did overcome his initial anxiety and even enjoyed the activities with his new teacher. He absolutely loved the bus ride they offered at the end of the session. “Amma I like this school. I’ll go here in September” were his words. Music to my ears. Bittersweet nevertheless.
Yes my dear Anay, if I’m am lucky enough and if it is destined to happen we will see you go to this school. Something your dad and I couldn’t experience with your dear sister. We had taken that moment for granted, and it was brutally snatched away from us before we could even realize it’s gone. ….

As I write here I’m in tears. My little boy is awake ( it’s early in the morning ) and he sees me cry. He innocently asks me if I miss Zoey. ( It is a universal truth in this household. Anyone crying must be crying because they miss Zoey). I say yes and then my wise little boy climbs out of his bed, and says with huge smile on his face “Don’t cry Amma. Remember grown-ups come back.” ( From Daniel Tiger “grown ups come back” song). He gives me tight loving hug and smothers me with his kisses. And just like that ……he manages to keep it all real for this bereaved mom.

My dearest Zoey, I miss you, think of you and love you every second of the day. And that’s OK. It’s OK to feel this unending grief because it’s means our love for each other is infinite as well. As usual love you to the moon and back baby girl !

A few pics of us with our baby girl….

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Christmas 2017

It’s that wonderful time of the year again. Time seems to just fly by at this speed that I sometimes cannot even comprehend. This was our 6th Christmas without our darling Zoey. How could that even be possible ? This life that I currently seem to be living is so alien to me … I wonder…. is that even me in there ?
6 years ago in 2011, I woke up on a Christmas morning to my girl rushing down the stairs to find her all her gifts underneath the Christmas tree. A year later I woke up, hoping that my life was a nightmare that I would somehow snap out of ….. She had been gone for exactly a month ….yes can you imagine what a Christmas morning that was ?. I still remember that time vividly. I used to wake up most mornings thinking it was all a frightening nightmare. I’d put my hand out to stroke her soft hair assuming she was sleeping by my side , only to find her darling little brother nestled close to me. Yes her brother was the only reason I got out of bed those days. Fast forward 5 years to this Christmas morning, I woke up to Zoey’s little brothers, who probably didn’t sleep a wink all night due to all the excitement of Christmas. We left cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, we even had reindeer food for Rudolf. And boy or boy did they love their new toys. It was pure joy to watch them open their gifts and feel that excitement you can only experience as a child. But every happy moment I ( and Karthik ) felt was tinged with this sadness of knowing that our family will never ever be complete. Because one of its main members permanently lives on moon. That is one of the reasons posing for family pictures and sharing them is particularly hard for me. I feel what’s the point. It’s never going to have all my children in it. How do I show the world this gorgeous first-born child of mine? Even if I photoshop her in, is it really the same as having her physically live with me as my child. No it will never be. Yes I understand, she had her journey and I have mine. But knowing that doesn’t help when you are out there holding back your tears because your heart wants what your heart wants. The longing never ceases …. you just get used to living with it. And holidays and festivities do make it worse. Because it’s a constant reminder of what once was in the past and of what will never be in the future.

Sigh! I really sound like downer especially during this season of joy and cheer. And I apologize since that isn’t my intention. However I do think grief needs to be expressed and accepted as a norm. Because ive come to realize that grief is just another form of love. Without love there wouldn’t be grief. So it needs to be given a place along with all the happiness and joy we feel.

Anyway coming back to this current reality of mine. Given the circumstances we had a really good holiday weekend. We are blessed with good friends whom we met over the weekend and today we took our boys to one of Zoey and her Dada’s favorite places : Camden aquarium. The boys had a blast watching the various kind of fish , turtles , sharks and even got to touch a few sting-rays. We came back home after spending much of the day at the aquarium and then later cuddled up together to watch the movie “Finding Dory”. The boys played with each other without us having to intervene and resolve their sibling fights. Actually that means without me having to yell and scream at them. So net net it was a beautiful Christmas! And while I don’t know what Christmas 2018 holds for us, today I choose to be thankful for what we have …….as that’s exactly what my baby girl would do.
Zoey my darling , my love and my one and only one….love you to the moon and back!

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2017

Zoey’s soccer-ball is five

This week, the day after Halloween, my strong-willed middle child turned five. Yes Zoey’s soccer-ball is not a preschooler anymore and is officially in the big kid league 😊. I know, it seems like these babies grow up way too fast. Last evening at a local book store, a well-wishing stranger commented on my littlest “He is so cute. Enjoy this age because before you know it, he will be in high school”. Well the old me would have probably shared the same sentiment. But not this version of me. See losing your first-born changes you and your perspective on everything. I don’t have the luxury to think beyond the present. I just don’t. I don’t even think about these boys going to kindergarten……high-school is light years away. All I can say is that, I feel lucky to witness these boys grow each day and I remind myself to count my blessings.

Oh how could my “Nini” be five already. I still remember the night he was born. Hurricane Sandy had just passed causing wreckage through most of New Jersey. While everyone on the outside, was recovering from the storm, our own little world was falling apart. Zoey had just finished radiation and was doing considerably well given her condition. We had a lot of hope back then, and we were sure that her boo-boo (cancer) would disappear in no time. It was October 31st and Zoey had been excited about Halloween. But due to hurricane Sandy, the township had postponed Halloween celebrations by a week. So,we had taken Zoey and her grandparents to one of her favorite restaurants (PF Chang’s) for lunch earlier in the day. I was only 36 weeks along. That night as usual Zoey slept, tucked in, right between her dad and I. However I woke up a little before mid-night only to find my water had broken. I told myself there’s still time as I couldn’t feel any contractions. But Zoey’s dad insisted that we rush to the hospital. We reached the hospital and went straight to labor and delivery. Since we knew the boy was in the breach position they thought a C-section would be required. The nurse checked, only to find out that he was already feet down in the birth canal waiting to be born. So a C-section was ruled out. My OB wasn’t comfortable with breach deliveries….. Luckily there was this specialist Dr Joe something who was making rounds that night. He was called and bless him, he reached just in time. He looked at me, smiled and said, “Shall we get this boy out?” And minutes later he effortlessly pulled Anay out. I shudder to think what would have happened had we reached the hospital later or if that specialist wouldn’t be making rounds that night. Just like that Zoey’s soccer ball came into this world, feet-first, sliding down a water slide ( as his dad puts it ). Oh boy was he in a hurry! And yes he kept his sister’s word. He was the first child to be born at that hospital for the month of November.

When Zoey came to see her brother the next morning, she was filled with excitement and immediately noticed his blue feet ( due to mild bruising that had occurred duration delivery) . She said “Mom Krishna is here !”. (For those who don’t know, Lord Krishna is always depicted to be blue skinned). Yes my darling little girl saw Krishna in her new-born brother …..And she was absolutely right!. Anay came into our lives and brought joy and happiness during a time of such heart-ache and grief. He is the reason this family is where it is today. Zoey’s dad and I are eternally grateful to him for choosing us as his parents.
Thank you my big boy, we love you and your little brother to the moon and back. Wish your sister was here to see you and all your smashing antics, but whom am I kidding……She is always there, right by your side !

Once again a very happy 5th birthday to you !

See his blue feet

The missing name

On the outside we appear like that textbook family of four. A dad, a mom and two active toddlers. We do all activities any normal family would do. We wake up each morning, have breakfast, go to work , cook and clean, feed our kids , send them to school , go to the park when the weather is good, we shop, and resolve tantrums like any other regular family. To an outsider we probably look content and happy. They aren’t aware of our first-born child, who has turned into this beautiful memory residing only in our hearts. They don’t see the gut-wrenching heart-ache and grief that Zoey’s dad and I experience most days. They don’t see the tears hidden behind those smiles. Mostly they don’t see the struggle. The struggle about when to include our dear Zoey and when to leave her out. Is it OK to bring up your deceased child in a conversation with a neighbor you hardly know ? Is it OK to tell someone that I’ve done this before and I know exactly what it means to have a little girl. This is one of the reasons I cringe at the thought of meeting  people that don’t know Zoey and making new friends. I hesitate to reach out. But we live in a society and I have two little boys. I can’t live on an island …. I so wish I could.

So this weekend we got invited to a birthday party in our neighborhood. We have met this family a couple of times, mostly outside playing in the park. We don’t know each other very well and like us, they are also new to the community. So when the invitation came, I felt nice that this sweet neighbor thought to include us in her child’s celebration. I asked Anay if he wanted to go and he seemed excited. So we bought a birthday gift and I asked Anay to write in the birthday card. He wrote his name and his brother’s name, and looked at me and asked “Can I write Zoey’s name ?” My brain just froze. I didn’t know what to tell him. Karthik and I have always talked about Zoey very openly with the boys. The boys include her in everything. They include her in the stories that they spin and narrate. They include her in the pictures they draw. Zoey’s name is always included in cards and gifts sent to our family. So naturally according to my little boy’s logic , why wouldn’t we include her name on this birthday card ? I just wish we adults thought and acted with equal innocence. I didn’t think through, and I completely regret what I did next. I told him he can write Zoey’s name on his favorite Doodle-pro instead of this card. He looked confused but didn’t question my decision, thankfully. We were getting late and so we left for the party.

Later after returning home, I thought about what happened. I felt so guilty ……. If my boy wanted to include his sister in the card why did I stop him. What was I thinking? What was I trying to circumvent ? Yes I didn’t want to get into an awkward conversation about a departed child at a happy kids party. I didn’t want to face that look of dread when they hear about what happened to my Zoey for the very first time. But frankly they probably wouldn’t even notice her name ….I felt miserable for betraying my only baby girl.

I guess I will handle it better next time. I’m learning as well. I’m learning to find a balance in-spite of this struggle. However in the future, if Anay or Hari want to include their lovely Akka in anything I’m not going to stop them. I just hope Anay would continue to include her and this one incident wouldn’t stop him. I sure hope not.

Zoey, I’m sorry my baby girl. For the first time I felt I betrayed you. I’m sorry …. it’s been over 4 years since you left , but your mom is still learning to survive in this world, without you.
Love you to moon and back (as always)

Family of five

A girl and two boys

It’s 2016 already and I haven’t written in forever. Time seems to be speeding by and I seem to get caught up in the day-to-day activities revolving around these boys. Yes this life with two active toddlers is definitely something, I wasn’t prepared for. It’s constant chaos right from the time they wake up, to their meals, to school drop offs, potty training, playtime, nap time …. one after the other all through the day. Most of time I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy the little moments of joy, hidden in between. And yes there are tons of those moments. These two boys are just what this bereaved mom probably needed to be mentally and physically busy…..

Today I am writing about something that happened over a month back. I was traveling down south for a family event at my maternal uncle’s house. I had left the boys (all three of them) back home and after much contemplation decided to go alone. I was looking forward to some quiet time, which has become a luxury these days. I arrived at the airport early to check-in, only to find my flight was cancelled. The only other flight that was going to that destination was leaving several hours later. So here I was at the airport with over 6 hours to kill … All by myself. I had wished for alone time …. Hadn’t I ?
However, being stuck at Bangalore international airport isn’t all that bad. You have free WiFi, tons of eateries and window shopping opportunities. After hanging out in the WiFi lounge for a while I decided to go and make myself comfortable at the departure gate. There were quite a few people waiting already and so it made sense to go early and get a place to sit comfortably. There I met this elderly lady who was clearly bored and was eager to have a conversation. After losing Zoey, I typically avoid random conversation. Something I stopped doing…. Just no enthusiasm to make small talk. I know that sounds snooty , but it isn’t. I just don’t have it in me anymore.
But I didn’t want to be rude to this elderly lady. We exchanged the usual “Are you from Bangalore?'” Then she asked the usual “Do you have any kids ?”. I said yes and didn’t bother to clarify further. Then she asked, “How many and how old are they?”. I was taken aback. It had been a while since anyone had asked me that question. Oh I found myself saying, “A girl and two boys. They are 8 , 3 and 1.5.” She was surprised, and complimented me on the fact that I didn’t look like a mom of three kids. As relentless as she was, she asked about their school and how they were adjusting to life in India. I again found myself saying “Oh my daughter is a doll, completely adjusted here and the boys are too young to care about where we live. They are happy anywhere we take them.”
That was that… I didn’t want to continue that conversation so got up on the pretext of charging my phone. I thought about what I had just done. When asked, I always maintain I have three kids. Most strangers leave it at that. However on that day a random stranger had gave me a glimpse of a life that would have been or rather should have been. How I wish I could see my Zoey as a bright, intelligent and confident 8-year-old. Maybe if she was here, she’d travel with me. Maybe she and I would have our girls-only trip somewhere. I’m sure she was right there smiling down on her mama fabricating these stories about her. I’m sure she accompanied me on that trip in her own special way.

I Miss her. Plain and simple. Miss her so much. Every minute of every hour, everyday I miss her. It’s like breathing …

Zoey and I in New York, for breakfast. Oct 2012

Zoey and I in New York, for breakfast. Oct 2012

Three years

Tomorrow is 25 November 2015. Three years back I experienced a parent’s worst nightmare. Three years back , on that Sunday after Thanksgiving, I lost my beautiful 5-year-old princess to brain cancer. Zoey took her last breath in her dad’s and my arms. She was calm, peaceful and from what she told us then, she was looking forward to stealing butter with her beloved Krishna. It’s unbelievable that it has been so long since her passing and also unbelievable how much has changed since then. But through all these changes the person that has been there for this family is her amazing dad. So on the third anniversary of her passing, with her dad’s permission :), I’d like to share an email Zoey’s dada sent to all her loved ones. Zoey, your dada has come such a long way since your left. Now you already know that, don’t you? You must be so proud of him. Love you to the moon and back baby girl. Moon and back.

Karthik’s email to Zoey’s loved ones:

Tomorrow it will be 3 years since Zoey’s passing. I can still feel her little body in my arms as soon as she came out of Suman and in the same vein I can also still feel the frail body reclining against my chest (because her back and neck were perpetually hurting with the tumor’s pressure) asking me if she had my permission to go and play with Krishna now. November 25th 2012 is also crystal clear in my mind as I pressed the button to cremate her physical remains.

Samsara by definition is a mixed bag and now 3 years later I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by gratitude for all that the Lord has given Suman and me and I wanted share those thoughts with you.

He gave Suman and me the most gorgeous little girl. The five and a half years with her were unquestionably the most beautiful years of my life and I would not trade them for anything. She was being ravaged by a tumor that could have shut down her automatic functions like swallowing, etc. but yet with Lord Krishna’s blessing that did not happen. Even with that acute pain my girl demonstrated a level of poise and equanimity that one can only aspire to achieve over numerous lifetimes. Lord Krishna in the Gita says “samathvam yoga uchyate – equanimity is yoga” and my girl exemplified samathvam…what an incredible blessing for her parents to be able to witness that equanimity and watch her eat ice-cream as her last meal on November 23rd.

Now 3 years later as I reflect on the changes in Suman and my life it is hard to not to be overwhelmed by how blessed we are. We have 2 adorable and extremely naughty little boys at home. This past year has been wonderful in terms of the time spent with family. Zoey’s DIPG fund will hit its original target of $100K tomorrow with over 350 donors. Suman’s Facebook page “Cure for Zoey” and comments on her blog continue to remind us of how compassionate we can be as humans. And then there’s all of you. Your love and support has been tremendous for us. You have been there for us over these last 3 years while giving us the space to find our own strength…and for that we are incredibly thankful and blessed.

The Bhagavad Gita is the ultimate vedantic text and gives us a roadmap for living our lives the right way – do your karma in a dharmic way, understand and appreciate your inherent immortality, and then finally realize that our individual atma (soul) is a microcosm of the paramatma…i.e. we are a microcosm of God and have all the qualities of godliness within us. We spend so much our lives complaining about things around us or finding faults with other people or whining about things we don’t have or just in general being unhappy about our material lives. Zoey stared death in the face with a smile and a desire for ice-cream. When I told her I was angry with God for giving her a boo boo in her head, she said I was missing the point – God didn’t give her the boo boo, he was taking it away. Let’s take a moment today, to put all our complaints and concerns on the shelf and without asking for anything more, just say thank you to God for all that we have been given. On that note, once again THANK YOU for everything.


Zoey's last trip to Baskin Robbins for ice cream

Zoey’s last trip to baskin Robbins for ice cream

Zoey's parents now three years later.

Zoey’s parents ….three years later.

The permanence of change

This blog post isn’t about my Zoey. But it definitely is about a change that was triggered by her untimely demise. When you lose your first-born to a disease that has no known cause or no known cure and a 100 percent mortality rate, it gets you thinking about what you really want to do in life. It changes every aspect of your life. You die with your child and what’s left behind is a changed person forever. It’s like rebirth. You have to start from the beginning for your surviving loved ones. And you learn to reinvent yourself for them. So yes this blog post is about something I have thought about constantly for the last 14 years and never ever thought I’d be doing it without my baby girl by my side.

We are in the midst of a relocation. But this time we are relocating continents i.e. relocating back to the country of my birth. I still remember that evening in July 2000, as I walked out of immigration in Chicago arriving in the U.S for the very first time. I vaguely remember thinking, we will stay here for a few years and most likely return. Well those few years added up to be being nearly 15 years ( 14.5 to be precise ). Like every other immigrant from my country, the thought of returning back was always there in my mind. 14 plus years seem like a lifetime in itself. But not to me. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. I guess that’s good thing…..maybe. We have had the privilege to travel, see the world, explore places and truly enjoy what the country had to offer. Also during these years we have relocated within the U.S quite a few times. And I have no regrets about it as every relocation has been for the better, be a better career opportunity or a better school district or a larger home. So yes we are relocating once more, but this time it’s back to India. It’s something we have wanted to do for a very long time, and the only way to figure if we can do it, is to actually try it.

I’ve been told relocating back to India after 14 years will be an eye opener of many sorts. The country has changed immensely in these years and I may find it tough to adjust back to life in India. Well I think to myself if I could survive losing my daughter, does it really matter what my postal address is? Does it matter that it isn’t in the country she was born in and the only country that has her memories. Actually it doesn’t. Because I’ve come to realize that she and her memories are always with me, no matter where I live on this earth. If I can survive her loss, I should be able to survive any change in life. Again I could be wrong, but am hoping I’m not.

Someone whom I met recently at the kid’s park here in India asked me “Oh so you are back for good?”. It got me thinking, what does “for good” mean anymore ? It implies some sort of permanence. Not for a person who has lost her first-born. Aren’t your children supposed to outlast you. Aren’t they “permanent” as long as you live. So no I’m not here for good. Because I don’t know what that means. I politely answered “Yes we are here for now.” So yes for now our postal address has changed. Will not say it’s for good, because the concept of permanence doesn’t exist for me. The only thing that is true and constant in my life, is the permanence of change.

Here’s to hoping this change in our lives is for the better, and hoping we can embrace its challenges with much ease. Here’s to hoping we can continue to bring awareness to pediatric cancers like DIPG, irrespective of our geographic location. Here’s to hoping Zoey’s brothers love and thrive in India, just the way we did in our childhood. Yes I wish my baby girl was still by my side. But that’s not my destiny. Oh I know she would enjoy living in India immensely. She did get to visit it a couple of times during her short stay with us. I am sure my baby girl is all aware of this transition and is helping us in her own special way. I feel her presence and see the signs she sends wherever we go. … She is amazing, now need I say that. Anyhow my baby girl, love you to the moon and back. Your brother calls it “the moony” these days ( just like dada called you his “moony”). We send flying kisses to you and the moon every evening as we return from the park. Now you already know that, don’t you ??

Cutie in red
Your mama forever

What do you do with ALL the pink.

Zoey loved the colors pink, purple and red. So when she passed away so suddenly ( though we knew the nature of tumor, but it was still all so sudden), we were left with a wardrobe filled with all her beautiful clothes, tutus, frills and fancies handpicked by me, her dad and in some instances Zoey herself. Yes she had very specific likes and dislikes and this child was picking her clothes every morning from the time she was about 2 years old.

After Zoey’s demise we kept all her toys and books ( about 200 books) for her baby brother, who was just 25 days old at the time. However all her clothes …what does one do with all that pink ? We donated quite of a few of them to charity hoping some girl Zoey’s age would use it and be happy. We kept a few of her special items like her baby onesies , her blankets , her ballet tutus, special occasion clothes , slippers etc…… We just couldn’t part with them. However soon I realized that we had kept them locked in a trunk too long and if we did not do anything about it it would stay in there forever. So we decided to use most of the remaining clothes to make 2 quilts, one for her dada and the other for me. Yes 2 beautiful quilts made by a local quilter here with all her special clothes.
While absolutely nothing will bring back my Zoey, having all her special items in one place , and being able to snuggle in it whenever we want, helps us keep her memories alive.

Quilt for dada

Quilt for dada

Quilt for mama

Quilt for mama

I also love the fact that karthik’s quilt is pinker than mine. Daddy’s girl alright 🙂

Zoey, I hope you loved these quilts as much as your dada and I. Love you to the moon and back baby girl.

Your mama

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


Zoey on her 2nd birthday:

Zoey on her 3rd birthday:

Zoey on her 4th birthday: with her very own bike.

Zoey on her 5th birthday: ( last one we were blessed with)

New Year’s Eve 2013

We have survived over 13 months without our sweet Zoey. Karthik and I have survived her 6th birthday, her brother’s first birthday, our first Diwali without her, our first Thanksgiving without her, two Christmases and including tonight, two New Years without her. Yes life goes on and we go through it’s motions everyday missing our sweet baby with all our heart. So tonight we welcome 2014, hoping and trying to keep the faith, braced for whatever life has to offer in the new year.
As we enter 2014, I’d like to reflect on the lessons I learnt from my baby girl’s sweet but extremely short life. Moreover these are lessons for my son as he lives his life without his Zoey Akka’s physical presence by his side. ( I say her physical presence because I am convinced without any doubt, that her spirit is always, always and ALWAYS by his side.)

1. Have FAITH ( This one is a struggle for me everyday. But I am trying my best to keep my faith going)
Have faith in yourself and in others. Faith will carry you when reason fails you. Find something to have faith in, it may be in your GOD or it may the goodness and kindness in people around you. But always keep that faith.

2. Enjoy the little things in life
I have learnt this entirely from my baby girl. Being a busy working parent and always juggling between several chores, we sometimes forget to stop, take a moment and just be with our kids. We forget to enjoy the little things. We are always waiting for the next activity, the next chore that is … We forget the joy of watching a 5-year-old snuggle and talk to her soft toy in her sleep with wide smile on her face, or the joy of watching a 1-year-old play with his toy again and again as if he were seeing it for the very first time. I remember my Zoey telling me to slow down, how I was not to hurry her royal highness 🙂 . It’s these little moments that matter most in life.

3. Family is the most important thing in life.
Your parents will always be with you no matter what you do in life. Your siblings have grown up with you and know you like no one else would ever know. Time may create distances in your relationship but at the end of the day, you can always , always count on them. For Zoey till the end, it was about her Dada, her Mama, her baby brother ( also called as soccer ball) , her Ajja and Domi (my parents) , her Thatha and Pita (karthik’s parents), her aunts, uncles and cousins. She insisted that each and every one come and sit with her, play with her and spend time with her during her last week here on earth.

4. Try not to be bitter ( learn to let go)
(This one is really hard for me. I struggle with it everyday , sometimes several times a day). Learn to let go off your expectations from others around you. Try not to assume and judge someone for their behavior. You don’t know what the other person is going through at the time.

5. Embrace life and death.
After seeing your child take her last breath in your arms, you have new-found appreciation for both life and death. You realize death is inevitable and there is no reason to fear or worry about it. In fact after the initial shock and despair wears off, you begin to embrace death in a new way. I will always be in awe of my baby girl as she embraced her final journey to eternity with such poise and grace. I can only strive to be half as graceful as she was when it’s my time to go. I know my girl braved to go someplace all by herself, fully aware there her Mama and Dada wouldn’t be able to join her. If a 5-year-old could embrace life and death in its entirety, why can’t we ?

The next time I post, it will be 2014. I’d like to thank everyone that joined our fight against childhood cancer and hope that in 2014, we will reach our goal for Zoey’s DIPG Research Fund at Stanford. I’d also like to thank everyone for reading about my Zoey’s life and following my journey as her grieving mom. I am truly honored and touched. A BIG HEARTFELT THANK YOU to all of you.