Shall we dance

Shall we dance

“Shall we dance Amma?” I get asked very politely by my littlest. He is just over 2.5 years and is an extremely cute dancer. Any music that plays on TV or anywhere else, he starts dancing. Those deep eyes look at you expectantly, and those tiny hands reach out to you forcing you to instantly get up and move with him. So I get up, hold his hands and we both do a silly dance to the Mickey Mouse Club House theme song. My older boy is giggling away, amused by his little brother and mom dancing to his favorite show. ( He too loves to dance, but he really needs to be in the mood and also needs some good beats). The younger one dances to anything. As we finish our little number, I can’t help but reflect on the past when I used to dance with my baby girl.

My baby girl who loved dancing. Any music playing anywhere, that bold child would get up and dance. Very similar to my littlest boy. I remember that one-year-old who had just learned to walk, moving her tiny self to nursery rhymes. I remember her falling down and getting up saying in a baby voice “Zoey fell down”. I remember that 3-year-old girl dancing to live music at a random restaurant, while we were vacationing in SC. I see her doing ballet to Swan-Lake during her Pre-K graduation ceremony in her beautiful pink tutu. That night not only did she dance, she participated in a skit, and told the audience she wanted to become a paleontologist-ballerina. Watching her on stage that night I thought, I couldn’t be prouder ….. how she proved me wrong ! She not only danced on stage, but danced her way through cancer. She’d dance to the song “Hey Krishna ” every single morning before heading out for her radiation session. And she was quirky that way. She did ballet moves to “Mahishasura Mardini”. People who know this song definitely know it’s nothing like ballet music. I watch that video of her and all I can say “Only my Zoey would think of something like that 😃”. In the last week of her life she couldn’t stand by herself so she’d sit up in bed and insist on moving her frail body with a huge smile on her face. Oh boy the spirit she had. As I watch her videos from that last week and I wonder how she did it. Where was she getting all that energy ? Her brain was shutting down her body slowly ….but I guess that cancer couldn’t touch her heart and undying spirit. Oh I miss that spirit. That force , that life ….my life . My Zoey. I miss her. Period.

So now you know how dancing with my child was a big part of my life. Looks like the universe has handed me another opportunity to do the same. These days when I get asked by my littlest, I jump in without thinking twice. Because if I am lucky he will soon grow out of this phase, and not want to dance with his mom 😃. Yes it isn’t like dancing with my Zoey. How can it be ? There can only be one and only one Zoey in my life. She is my number one girl forever. She is irreplaceable. However dancing with my boys is still special. It will be something I cherish in the years to come 🙂

Dancing Zoey

Dancing Zoey

Zoey forcing me to dance 😃

Zoey forcing me to dance 😃

Hari and I dancing in Disney

Hari and I dancing in Disney

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4 years

Letter from Zoey’s dad to all her loved ones, on the 4th anniversary of her passing.

November 25th marked four years since Zoey’s passing and we have now spent over 70% of her life without her, and yet the separation seems so insignificant compared to the enormity of the five and a half years we got with her. While that amount of time may seem like a small number, we got a lifetime’s worth of memories from them. What else can one ask for? 5.5 years with the love of my life, a boatload of memories, a vision of her blowing fish kisses at me when I close my eyes and when my head is quiet enough, her voice in my ear saying “love you dada”…can’t ask God for much more.

Suman and I leave town each year on Zoey’s anniversary just because we know we’d sit around moping if we stayed at home. Arguably there’s nothing markedly different about the day besides being symbolic on the calendar…every single day since that day four years ago has been a day without her physical presence. This year Suman and I took the boys to Disney World. Zoey was four when we brought her here and Anay is the exact same age. Two high-energy boys are definitely very different companions than a petite well-behaved girl. Anay is Mickey obsessed and spent the trip convincing his father that the best way to get him to behave himself was to buy him Mickey-faced toys. Hari on the hand has a simple philosophy when it comes to these things, if you buy something for my brother you better do the same for me as well or else everyone will both hear and feel my presence.

One expects Disney World to be filled with excited kids and their parents trying to soak in all that as Disney’s aptly puts it, the “happiest place on earth” has to offer. We did see tons of those folks. There was also this other set of folks that I noticed on this trip that quite frankly made this trip more real for me. Kids being wheeled around with chemotherapy ports sticking out of their bodies for what may have been their last “fun” trip prior to their final journey. A family wheeling around a very tired looking child on a wheelchair wearing T-shirts that said “Make a Wish Foundation – Illinois”, trying to smile and look energized while understanding that the foundation only supported the final wishes of terminal kids. Other families with kids that had seemingly severe physical and mental disabilities completely focused on acting normal with their kids while looking around at other kids and wishing their kids had a different kind of “normal”. A man, maybe a cleric, wearing a T-shirt that said, “God is my boss”. Seeing these folks just reinforced for me how a place like Disney World is no different from any other place in this world where the dualities of life (happiness-sorrow, life-death, etc.) stare us in the face…whether we choose to see them or not rests with us.

The last time we went to Disney, I had a beautiful wife and daughter, a thriving career and no financial worries…materialism and selfishness were at their finest. Childhood cancer was something that happened to someone else’s family. My relationship with God was transactional…since things were going pretty good…God was good. Praying to God was invariably about asking for something. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t this how most of us live our lives? Is faith in God based on how well we feel we are being treated and how well life is going, or is it something deeper?

Here’s how I see faith now…faith equals acceptance. Accepting that the dualities of life are a blessing is faith. Accepting that I always get what I deserve as against what I desire is faith. Accepting that what I get is the right thing for me every single time is faith. Accepting that heaven and hell are states or mind and that heaven rests within me and in my state of mind is faith. Acceptance that I can choose to be satisfied with what I have without constantly wanting something more is faith. Accepting that while Zoey’s time with us was shorter than anticipated, her death was much of a blessing as her life is faith. Accepting that God is always just irrespective of what is thrown my way is faith. For all the T-shirts with messages that I saw at Disney, the one that stood out for me said this – “Thankful & Grateful”.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for Suman and me over these last four years.
Zoey’s dad.

Princess Zoey at Disney in 2011

Princess Zoey at Disney in 2011

How to support a greiving friend after child loss

On November 25th 2012, I was forced into this club that no parent wants to join. Yes it’s been almost 4 years since we said goodbye to my Zoey. These years have seen so much. So many emotions, I don’t know where to begin. Anger, denial, gut-wrenching grief, desperation, acceptance, joy, peace and so much love. However living with this grief has also been extremely lonely and isolating. It’s like the entire world on the outside has moved on leaving you all alone, stuck in the time when your child was alive.
It’s partly because of the fact that we don’t think about child loss until its us or someone close to us that experiences it. See children dying too soon isn’t the norm we are used to. We accept death when it comes to our elders. But our children, No. We don’t want to go there because it’s too sad and let’s face it, it’s too scary. Children are supposed to outlive parents and when something like this happens it shocks our core and leaves us helpless. Over these years I’ve experienced that most people are clueless and don’t know what to say or how to comfort a bereaved parent. So today I’m penning some heartfelt advice to the friends of a bereaved mother. (I say bereaved mother versus bereaved parent because dads grieve differently) I guess this advice may sound unsolicited but please bear with me.

Don’t disappear

Yes your friend has lost her child and is in no state to call or talk about it. She needs time. And there is no fixed amount of time. Everyone grieves differently. Some like to go into their shell while others want to be vocal about their feelings.
So what happens next? You try to visit, you call a few times but she doesn’t respond. You are sincere and you want to help. You love her. You text or call again, and she still doesn’t respond. A long time passes and you get busy with your life and responsibilities. It’s not that you forget her. You have her best interest in your heart and you really think about her everyday, but you hesitate to reach out……And just like that she loses a good friend she once had.

However if that friendship mattered to you, and if you want to continue to be in her life and vice-versa, you will pick that phone and call and keep calling. Yes she may not answer it immediately. But the very fact that you called will help her immensely. The very fact that you took a few minutes out of your hectic life to call and leave a voicemail will make her feel cared for. And one day she will be ready to speak to you, and include you back in her life. May take several days, months or years …. But trust me it will happen.

Talk about her child

Most people fear that bringing up the topic of the dead child, may trigger unnecessary tears and grief. Let me tell you, nothing you say or do will remind her of her child. Because she is always , ALWAYS, thinking of the one she lost. It’s like second nature to her. It’s like breathing.
Your mentioning her child’s name, will let her know that her baby isn’t forgotten. See as a bereaved parent that is one of fears we have……That our child will be forgotten over time.

If you have kids that were friends with her child, talk about them as well. She will feel good that you are including her in your life and it’s happenings. If you happen to remember the child’s birthday or “death” day, do call her to let her know. I can assure you, she would love that phone call.

Don’t wish her on her birthday
Birthdays and anniversaries don’t mean much to her anymore. Birthdays are a constant reminder of how much time has gone by since her child died. After seeing her child die, her “birth” day isn’t special. It’s just another day that she has to tide through. Also birthdays typically bring on a guilt that while she survived another year, her baby died way too soon.

Instead of wishing her, you could just let her know that you are thinking of her. Also if you happen to notice she hasn’t called you on your birthday, it’s basically due to the same reason. You may notice that she still celebrates the birthdays of her living children. However inside, her heart always cringes at the thought of a celebration.

Let her grieve openly

Sadness makes us feel uncomfortable and we don’t know what to say or do when someone breaks down in front of us. We want to help but somehow society has instilled in us that tears are not meant for the public eye. No tears aren’t bad. Sometimes all a bereaved parent wants to do is sit down and cry. (Because as a parent you can’t let your guard down in front of your other living kids. You need to be strong and superhuman for them).
So if your friend wants to just let go of her tears in your presence, just let her. Let her cry and grieve openly. Be there for her and don’t try to say something to “fix” it for her. Because absolutely nothing in the world can bring her child back. That’s the reality she has to deal with every second of the day. And remember, she is doing it with a smile on her face most of the time. So if she wants to grieve openly , just let her.

Finally …..Just be there
I cannot emphasize on this enough. The friends and loved ones I remember and appreciate the most in my life now are the ones that continued to be there through these post-Zoey years.
I get it. It’s hard to understand when your friend wants to be alone and when she craves company. The only way to know is to ask. “Do you want me to come over ? Why don’t you join me for coffee?”.
I also get it, you may have your own grief to deal with. You may be grieving the child’s death too, or the child’s death may remind you of the vulnerability of others in your life, particularly of your own children. However I request you to not let it block you from being there for her. In conclusion, reach out – show her that you care.

Thank you for taking the time to read this through …..
Sincerely,
A bereaved mom.
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Krishna Janmasthami 2016

Today is Krishna Janmasthami. It is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity “Krishna”. It is typically celebrated by fasting, worshipping Krishna and staying up until midnight to offer prayers, sweets , flowers and fruits at a special time when he is believed to have been born. Growing up in India, I looked forward to this festival because mom would make various mouth-watering delicacies all day. We’d be forbidden to eat any of it until all the prayers were offered at night. Then we would gorge to our heart’s content.

Last year I was in Bangalore for this festival. I remember dressing up these boys of mine in their little Krishna outfits. They gladly wore them and even allowed for some pictures to be taken.

Janmasthami 2015

Janmasthami 2015

That was last year. See this year these boys have turned into extremely strong-willed toddlers, whose first response to anything I suggest is a resounding and final “NO”. None of my skills in persuasion, blackmailing with chocolate, or threatening them with adverse consequences seemed to have helped. The older boy even said it was OK if he doesn’t get chocolate today…..So I guess I gave up. I made peace with them running around in some super-hero t-shirt of their choice instead. 😊

On this day, it’s hard not to think of my Zoey’s undying love and devotion for her little Krishna. So this year, I decided to prepare a few delicacies that I made in the Zoey-era of my life. I made the traditional aval-payasam (made with milk, clarified butter, rice, sugar and nuts) , idli (steamed rice pancakes), and some chakuli (fried savory snack made with rice, lentils and butter). No I didn’t do this alone. I couldn’t especially with these two toddlers around. My kid’s nanny helped me immensely. (And yes I feel blessed to have that kind of support in my life).

Making chakuli, instantly took me back to 2012. That was the last time it was prepared in my residence. It has taken me four years to get out of my grief and make this particular snack for these boys. It used to be Zoey’s favorite. I remember so clearly making it with Zoey and Zoey’s Domi (grandma) in August 2012. We were so oblivious of the storm that was going to come and turn our lives upside down. (She got diagnosed on 1st September 2012). My baby girl loved festivals. She loved the fuss of making mouth-watering savouries and sweets , the dressing up in traditional Indian clothes, the dancing to festival music etc. Ah…. How I miss that girl and that life.

So coming back to this new life of mine, yes I cooked a lot of food today. I feel thankful that my kids didn’t refuse immediately and seemed to enjoy them just like my Zoey did. I’m grateful that we were able to celebrate this festival in the sanctity of our new home. Yes I miss her. I miss her immensely, but I choose to be thankful for the remaining blessings in my life.

And Zoey, my beautiful little baby girl, Happy Krishna Janmasthami to you as well. I know, I don’t need to wish you as you are with HIM enjoying this day and having a blast. Love you to moon and back as always.

  Janmasthami 2016


Janmasthami 2016

Home sweet home

Home sweet home !
Zoey’s dad, her brothers and I just committed to living under one such roof. We had toured a few houses in an area that we liked and luckily found a place that would suit most of our needs. No pie-in-the-sky aspirations about this house like our first home, way back in 2005. It had to meet our basic accommodation and comfort requirements and the one we liked, did that quite adequately. As we completed the formalities of the transaction, I happened to notice the excitement in all the people involved, be it our realtor, the seller’s realtor , the various attorneys etc. They innocently asked us whether we were ready to settle in and congratulated us on this new “phase/beginning”. Karthik and I just smiled through it. As we signed on the dotted line, I felt numb. Shouldn’t I be feeling happy or possibly remotely excited ? I had a smile on my face but I kept thinking to myself, “Why are they so excited. It’s just a house ? ” . Then I realized ….these people hadn’t seen their full-of-life child die right in their arms. I have to say, the image of Zoey’s last moments keeps coming back and with it comes this huge wave of gut-wrenching grief. However these days I seem to have good control over my tears and I force myself to think of happier times with Zoey. But this definitely wasn’t one of those controlled moments. We completed the transaction, walked out of the realtor’s office, sat in the car and I broke down, sobbing loudly. Her dad understood. He just sat there holding my hand for a moment. He remembered as well. The last home we bought, was when our first-born was alive.

I remember Zoey was about 3.5 years old. Zoey, Karthik and I had driven down to Princeton to tour the house. She walked into the house and started playing on the stairs. We looked at the rooms and she asked to see hers. Later, once we moved in, she insisted her room be painted in pink. She and I decorated the walls with beautiful flower decals. There was a neat little book shelf loaded with books that she enjoyed daily. It was a beautiful room for my beautiful child. She spent most lazy afternoons napping, reading and playing there with me. I feel blessed to have had that kind of time with her. How can I ever forget that home. It had Zoey written all over the place. It was hers. Truly hers. And when she left us, it didn’t make sense to continue living in that home, Zoey’s home. It just didn’t.

So here we are today, trying to do the same with our boys. The older one is also 3.5 years old. And younger is just 2. This new house will be their home. I know that excitement doesn’t exist for her dad and I. However for what it’s worth, we will try our level best to find joy again in this new house of ours. Find joy, find peace and find contentment ….hopefully. I won’t say things like “I hope these boys get to grow up in this house”. I don’t have that luxury. The future isn’t guaranteed to anyone. All I can hope and pray for is for happiness and contentment in the present and only the present.

Zoey I know you were there by my side, as I choked down a tear, trying to force a smile when signing that document. You were there all along. I felt your undying spirit guide me but all my heart wanted was a tight little hug from my girl. All my heart desired was the physical touch of your soft skin and your kiss on my cheek. …….someday maybe someday. Love you baby girl.

Your mom.

Our new home

Our new home

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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Zoey’s mom

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I’ve been meaning to but life and its mundane changes get in the way, I guess. So much has happened since my last post.

After spending a year and a half in India we decided to move back to the U.S. It’s some thing I had foreseen happen in a few years, but looks like it’s happened sooner than we expected. No, we didn’t move back because we couldn’t adjust to life and it’s day-to-day challenges that one typically faces in India. For us it was quite smooth sailing, and we truly made the most of being so close to our immediate family. However due to some personal and professional reasons we felt it wasn’t time to make Bangalore our permanent home. So c’est la vie (that’s life ) and we returned back to the U.S.

We are still settling in and this time around it is taking a bit longer due to these toddlers. But it’s all fine because we are in it together and we feel blessed to have this level of flexibility in our lives.
The other day the boys seemed to get over their jet lag and were inching to go outside. So we decided to drive my new car to a temple close by. This is one place Karthik and I haven’t visited since Zoey’s passing. The last time we were there, Zoey was a happy 5-year-old and Anay was still safe in my tummy. I remember my girl, with a big grin on her face, crossed but twinkling eyes praying with everything she had, for the boo-boo in her brain to disappear. So you can imagine it was quite emotional and a bit overwhelming for her dad and I to walk into the temple with these two boys…..without Zoey’s physical presence by our side. Inside these two were super excited for some reason. The little one shouted out “ba-na-na” every time he saw one and older one was just happy and giggling away loudly. We got to usual “they are so cute”, “are they twins ? “. People were seeing us as a family of four. I was feeling a bit low that I couldn’t show them my first-born, my beautiful baby girl who would have turned 9 this June. They would never know of my Zoey. We finished visiting and when we were about to leave, a sweet lady came up to me and asked me “Are you Zoey’s mom? “. For a second I was so taken aback that I couldn’t say a word. She went on to explain that she follows this blog and is a huge fan of my Zoey. Oh the pride and genuine happiness I felt hearing those words ! That was my baby girl showing us she was right there with us all along. She was playing with her brothers inside and wanted to ensure we knew that she was there. Yes Zoey, I will always be your mom. No matter how much time passes by, I will always be Zoey’s mom first.
And to the kind person who met me that day, if you are reading this, I thank you with all my heart for the immense joy you gave this bereaved mom. There are no words to express my gratitude.

Zoey Zoey Zoey….. my first-born baby girl, I seem to miss and long for you more each day. I feel the void you left behind every second of the day. Yes, I remain thankful for your beautiful siblings and I truly feel blessed to have them in my life. I remind myself to enjoy them and their innocence because if I am lucky I will see them grow out of this age soon. Everything is short-lived and you taught me to make the most of what life throws at us. I’m going to end this blog-post with a saying you learned in pre-school and that you often repeated at home “You get what you get, you don’t get upset”. Yes baby girl, I got you for those five-and-a-half short, but beautiful years, and I hope to someday see you and be with you forever and ever. Till then I continue my journey here on earth, as your mom. As Zoey’s mom.
Love you forever …
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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.

Love,
Karthik

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.