Zoey’s dad’s blog post on the fifth anniversary of her passing.
November 25th marks 5 years since my daughter, Zoey, passed away from an inoperable brain tumor. As my wife and I look at our lives in the 5 years since her passing and compare it to the years prior, there are absolutely no similarities. It’s as if we died with Zoey 5 years ago and are now living another life. A life that is full to anyone who sees us including our family…because they see us as the parents of two extremely naughty boys who constantly keep us on our toes. What isn’t seen is the fact that every happy moment is tinged with an element of “if she was here”. The loss of our child will never leave us and the notion of time heals all wounds is incorrect…time doesn’t heal a wound like this, you just learn to live with the pain.
I don’t want to spend any part of this blog post writing about the pain of losing a child. I’d rather focus this blog on the blessing that it was and is to be her Dad. Zoey was 5.5 years when she passed and those were some of the most beautiful years of my life…I’m sure my wife will agree as well. Holding her for the first time in my arms was perfect in every way and I remember thinking to myself that a moment couldn’t get more perfect than that particular one. There were tons of times over those years with her when I had to redefine perfection.
Kids have a way of keeping things simple and ensuring they are always viewed with the right perspective. When Zoey was four, her mom asked her if she knew what her Dad did for a living…Zoey’s response was priceless in its simplicity. She said her Dad’s job was to pay the bills. After her tumor diagnosis, she and I were driving somewhere and she saw me crying. When she asked me why I was crying, I told her that I was angry with God for giving her a boo-boo in her head. She decided to gently give me the most important life-lesson I’ve ever received by telling me that I was missing the point – God had not given her a boo-boo but was taking it away. The week before she passed, she was in acute pain and on palliative care with high doses of pain management drugs. She and I would spend all day in bed together and then at night she would lean against me in a reclined position to try sleeping because lying flat on the bed probably hurt more. On one of those days, she waited for her mom to leave the room and then told me that she wanted to ask me something but that it was a secret. She then told me matter of factly that Krishna (Hindu God that she fell completely in love with post-diagnosis) had asked her to come and play with him, and she wanted my permission to go to him. While responding to her that she should go ahead and go play with Krishna in a place where she would be pain-free and the boo-boo wouldn’t be there anymore, it struck me that my five-year old in the midst of acute pain had still had the presence of mind to realize that her Mom wouldn’t be able to handle that painful conversation. There are several other such conversations that I choose to think of as blessings, because that is what they were…opportunities for her Mom and Dad to learn from an old soul, our daughter.
Zoey continues to be a part of our lives and our daily conversations. Her brothers hear about her all the time and if asked to discuss their family always make it a point to include her in the picture. When my older boy, who was born the same month that she passed, writes his siblings’ names, he always calls out both Zoey and his little brother Hari. She is their sister who visits them while they’re asleep and lives on the moon based on the stories they’ve heard from me. They know she’s always with them and we know she’s always with us. Even though I can’t see her physical presence, when my mind is really quiet, I can hear her. Hers was the voice that led me down the path of finding inner peace through the teachings of Vedanta. I can feel her continually challenging me to be a better person. She has been my inspiration and guided me on my spiritual journey, gently coaxing me to go deeper within. I see her guiding hand in my wife Suman’s blogs which continue to be a source of inspiration for hundreds of readers who see her not just living but thriving as a mother in the aftermath of a deep personal tragedy.
Here’s the reason why I wanted to share this deeply personal story with you. Our lives are filled with challenges and how we deal with them defines the quality of our lives and our mental states of happiness or sadness. We are constantly faced with forks in the road where we need to make choices. Virtually every single action, verbal or physical, is based on a personal choice. What if when we encounter these choice-oriented forks in the road, we focus on the one person we don’t want to disappoint and ask ourselves if the chosen path would meet their approval? Wouldn’t knowing that they would approve make you a better person and more comfortable about where you’re headed? People who feel they are doing the right things are generally happier and lead more fulfilled lives. I find myself constantly asking myself if Zoey would be proud of her Dad or disappointed if I did a certain thing and I’ve found it to be an invaluable method to do more things right than not. Right in this case is a matter of perspective with you being the judge, because only you have to live with your choices and the associated consequences.
To our friends and family, thank you for being there for us.