Today I held my beautiful baby nephew Matthew Robert Milne, at only 6 hours since birth. I can't help but hold this little miracle without thinking of Zoe.
It has been 6 months since I last held her. To assure myself that it really has been that long, I have to think of all that has taken place since August 31st, 2012. The most difficult realization is knowing that she has been gone longer than she was alive. It seems like just last week I felt her rapidly beating heart and nuzzled those plush cheeks against mine. When she first died... six months seemed like a lifetime away. I was just trying to make it through one hour and one day at a time. I figured six months from then I would be much further in my own grief. How do you forecast grief? I was naive to think that six months from her death I would be "just fine." I reference "just fine" on a regular basis. I am. Life is moving forward and time is passing. I have so much to be grateful for and I still believe that I am the creator of my own destiny. I still believe that with trials come blessings. And of course, I still believe that attitude is everything... one Diet Coke at a time.
I refer to the present as our "new life" because I never imagined this story would ever be my own. People say all the time, "I can't even imagine..." No one can. I still can't believe it. I still cry every time we go to the cemetery. I still wince inside when I see babies that were born around the same time as Zoe. Watching them grow and progress is painful and exciting all at the same time. I know that Zoe has already grown and progressed so much more than I can even comprehend, but I'm missing it all and missing her.
Lulu and I had an impromptu date night (aka I didn't feel like cooking for 1.5 people tonight) at our favorite little Chinese restaurant. I have been going to this Chinese place since I was in high school and I'm a pretty frequent flyer with the owner. She was in the kitchen cooking tonight but when the waitress told her we were there, she came out to say hi. After gushing over Londyn like she always does, she asked "Where's the baby?" I get this question or "How's your baby?" on a regular basis at various public places. If I don't know them and see them very rarely, I usually just tell them "she's good" or "she's with Grandma" because honestly, I dread the heartbroken expression on their faces when I tell them that she passed away and even more honestly, I don't always have the energy to comfort and console those that I barely know. It's exhausting and there are days when I feel up to it and others when I'd rather just avoid it all together. Tonight, the owner was very curious and asked lots of questions about my baby. She wanted to know where she was... how old she was... does she look like her sister... she even said, "Please bring her in next time!" After getting through it, she went back into the kitchen. I felt sick for taking it so far and completely lying to this woman who I have seen off and on over the years and was showing me genuine kindness. I asked the waitress if I could speak to the owner again... she came out of the kitchen and I quickly blurted out "I lied to you. I'm so sorry." She was confused... and said "it's okay, I understand." No she didn't understand and was about to REALLY not understand... I told her everything and that I lied because I didn't want to break her heart. I told her that I felt awful for my dishonesty and wanted her to know the truth. It was difficult to see the pain in her face but eventually she said that if I didn't tell her the truth this time, she would just keep asking me every time I came in and then it would hurt my heart even more. She was absolutely right. I need to be honest for me more than anything. Even though it's difficult to break that news to people I barely even know, I need to do it for my own peace of mind, body and spirit. Eventually I will be asked less and less. It's been six months... and how long am I going to just keep saying "she's good"?
At the beginning of this month, we were able to meet with AF Memorials to discuss the layout of Zoe's headstone. We are so excited for it to be finished and hope to have it placed by her first birthday, April 11th. That same day Andrew and I attended a board meeting for the Middleton Pioneer Cemetery and accepted their invitations to sit on the board. Being a part of the cemetery where our daughter rests is such a gift. Zoe's cemetery runs on volunteers, donations and many labors of love. The grounds hold a great deal of heart and history, which is exactly what we wanted for our little angel.
We are excited for this new opportunity and look forward to the service that our family will take part in for many years to come.