I cannot go to bed without sharing the following...
I just spent the past hour trying to comfort my three year old who was crying hysterically and could not be consoled. It all began when she fell asleep at my parent's house and then in the car on the way home. I tried to carry her in and although she wasn't making any sense, I attributed her crabby pants attitude to her being overly tired. She didn't want to put jammies on. Okay. Then she wanted jammies on. SCREAM. YELL. SCREAM. She wanted to snuggle. Okay... Then she didn't want to do anything at all. SCREAM. YELL. That's how this night was going. I finally got her into bed and she started bawling. She repeated the following over and over again, in between wails and tears... "I miss Zoe! I want her to come back. Why did she leave us? She didn't want to leave us mom. Her heart was too broken and the doctors tried and tried to put it back together, but they couldn't. We all go to sleep but Zoe doesn't sleep with us anymore. We have to sleep without her. She left all of her toys and stuff here. She even left her crib! I want her home with us. She was always at the hospital. Why couldn't she be at home with us more? Why did she have to leave? Why couldn't the doctors fix her broken heart? Her heart was just too broken and sick. I miss my sister.".... and so much more. She was also fixated on a book that she couldn't find and she was afraid she would forget about the book and forget about Zoe. It took the longest time to figure out what book she was talking about. It turns out, she wanted to read the book "Gracie" a story about a little girl who lost her sister to a heart related condition. I hadn't read it to Londyn since right after Zoe died. It was such a special book gifted to us and it was getting torn, so I decided to put it up until Londyn got a little older. Surprisingly, reading that book was the only way to calm Londyn down.
Sometimes I forget how much Londyn has been through in the past year and a half. She has seen so much that most three year olds don't ever experience. She is grieving just as much as Andrew and I are. Most think that she is too young to be affected or to remember her sister. But she remembers every detail that she possibly can about Zoe. In fact, I was looking up at her while we were snuggling in her bed and I caught a glimpse of Zoe in her face. I know Zoe is with her sister and gives her comfort when it's needed, but tonight's meltdown was a first for me. I had never seen Londyn so emotional about her sister. Her thoughts were so mature and so wise for her age. I held back countless tears as my little girl poured out her heart, fears and pain. Eventually I stopped trying to comfort her with my words and just held onto her tightly with tears flowing. It hit me that she is grieving in her own way and I can't fix it. I can't bring her sister back. I can't make promises that i cannot keep. But I can be her mother. I can hold her when she cries. I can listen and listen some more. Londyn is my light and joy. Seeing her in pain and grieving the loss of her baby sister is heartbreaking all over again....
This past Thursday, April 11th, 2013 we had a very special family day, celebrating Zoe's 1st year in our forever family. It was a Zoe Day, perfect in every way.
We started the day off at the cemetery singing Wheels on the Bus (Big Sister Londyn's request) and Happy Birthday to Zoe at her grave with the warm sun shining down on us.
After visiting Zoe, we shopped for a few items to make a memory box that we will give to the hospital to be gifted to another family who will lose their child. We picked out a soft blanket, photo album and a candle for them to light when they are missing their own baby. We picked the blanket and album that have elephants as they remind us of the stuffed animal elephant that Londyn cherishes from her sister Zoe, which she has named "Gracie" and sleeps with every night.
We then had lunch at Red Robin in the very booth that we shared together as a family with Zoe. We rarely took Zoe out in public to avoid germs, so the few times we ate at a restaurant together were memorable.
Last but not least, we went to Bullwinkle's and played a game of mini golf. The weather was gorgeous and we had so much fun!
We shared lots of smiles and laughs, memories of Zoe here with us and new ones with her here in spirit.
It was a wonderful day. We truly appreciate all of the text messages, phone calls, FB comments and even several bouquets of flowers that were left on our doorstep.
Having others remember Zoe's birthday and knowing she will never be forgotten is the best gift that we could receive.
Yesterday we threw a birthday party in honor of Zoe's birthday. We invited close friends and family to wear RED and bring an unwrapped gift appropriate for a one year old child to be donated to heart patients at RCH.
I spent so much time planning this event over the past month or so because I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted each detail to be just right and capture the meaning of Zoe's short life and how much she has blessed our family this past year. Some of the little details I had planned didn't work out and we had to roll with it. Go with the flow. Our heart baby taught us patience, not sweating the small stuff and of course, "Zoe Time."
My centerpieces didn't turn out how I wanted... who cares?! We wanted to serve heart-shaped slider hamburgers and we quickly learned on Wednesday night that it was not as easy as we thought. Did it make any difference? Of course not.
If everything went as planned and expected, we would never be given opportunities to learn, grow and step outside of ourselves to reach a greater potential. This past year I have been given more than I ever wanted or thought I needed but I can see a better me in the distance. I can see a stronger mother and wife with more purpose than I ever had before. That is a gift from God that Zoe has so graciously shown me.
Lulu and some of her cousins
From the random Diet Coke drops on my front doorstep, to the sweet text messages of encouragement, I am blessed to have amazing friends, sisters and a mother who are willing to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light... mourn with those that mourn and comfort those in need of comfort."
Being surrounded by our loved ones and singing Happy Birthday was beautiful. Blowing out the number one candle as a family was painful. I could hardly hold it together. I know this party was purely for us and our broken hearts, but all of me grieved that I will never see my one year old Zoe digging into her 1st birthday cake or see her joy in the wrapping paper instead of the actual presents. These tiny milestones are not important in the grand scheme of things. I cannot give my daughter her first baby doll, but I can throw a party in her honor and do everything I can in this life to be worthy to join her and my Father in Heaven again someday.
That eternal gift will bring so much more joy than any monetary gift.
Following the party, we headed to the cemetery and unveiled Zoe's headstone. We then released a dozen balloons for every month that we shared with her.
Sweet cousin Emma
Families Are Forever
Thank you to all who made Zoe's headstone possible. It is everything we hoped it would be. We would not have been able to place such a lovely memorial without all of the generous support and donations.
Today is your 1st birthday and I can remember exactly what I was doing at this very moment, one year ago. I was snuggling your big sister as she slept because I knew in just a few short hours, our lives were forever going to be changed.
We checked into the hospital at 5:30am and got settled into our room. They took us to the operating room at about 7am and we anxiously awaited your arrival. I was terrified and held your Daddy's hand so tight. I remember praying over and over again for strength and courage. After you were born, you cried and it was the most beautiful sound. Your cries were sounds of hope and life. Daddy was so proud and I could tell in his eyes that he loved you from that very first moment. After the team of nurses and doctors finished their testing and exam, I was able to hold you for a brief moment. It was so terribly hard to believe that anything could be wrong with such a perfect little being. That memory will always stay etched in my heart. I held you and knew that you were a gift from God. There was no doubt that He chose me to be your mother and that although it was going to be a rough road, I felt honored to be chosen.
A year ago today, you changed my life. You gave me knowledge of truths that I wouldn't have received otherwise. You showed me what this life is all about and why I am here. You taught me about the Atonement and eternal families. But I miss you. I miss you so much Zoe. Your Daddy and sister miss you. We are trying though. We are trying to find a way to be happy without you. We are trying to be happy without you and be okay with that. It isn't easy and we struggle daily, but I know that we can't be with you again if we don't learn these lessons now.
We had 142 beautifully heartbreaking days with you. I am so thankful to my Father in Heaven for each of those days and for entrusting me with such a noble task. Thank you for teaching, inspiring, loving and enduring all that you did for us.
Happy 1st Birthday sweet girl. You will always be in my heart.