Oh Holy Night

Exactly a year ago tonight I was rocking my sweet Zoe to sleep for what would be the very last time. Zoe's condition was worsening and there was nothing we as her parents could do.  It was decided that although sooner than expected, she needed her second open heart surgery, the Bidirectional Glenn.

Zoe and I were both exhausted that night from all of the pre-op testing and visiting with her surgeon Dr. John.  I had watched Zoe get poked 7 times earlier that day, not including the AM and PM shots we dreaded giving her at home.  About an hour after I laid her down in the crib, I finished up all of the last minute preparations for the long and uncertain days/months of recovery ahead. I then snuck back into the nursery and scooped my snuggly little bundle up in my arms.  I put some church hymns on and just rocked her.  I wept with fear, hope and prayer in my heart for a future with this little spirit that my Heavenly Father sent to our family.  I had a prompting that even though I was exhausted, I shouldn't go to bed just yet and relish in that moment.  I stayed up with her until 12:30am, just holding her tiny hands, kissing her plump cheeks and holding her as close as I could.

I have reread my blog post from that night and it is so hard to look back to that specific moment in time.  I wish somehow I could have known that I would never have my Zoe back again.  I wish I hadn't slept.  I wish I hadn't done anything other than hold her fragile little body.  With any kind of loss, there is guilt.  There will always be what-ifs.  There is a pain inside that's fullness cannot be described.

How has it been a year already?  How has life continued on?  Sometimes I'm just so angry and upset that time keeps passing.  Sometimes I just want to stop time and scream and yell and lose it because this horrible tragedy has happened to me and my family. Because it kills me than when I'm missing Zoe, my 4 year old is comforting me as if roles have reversed.  The other night, Andrew was at work and I was snuggling Londyn in my bed.  I told her that I wished I could see Zoe one more time.  She told me, "Yeah... but she's in heaven right now.  It's okay mom, we'll see her again in a couple days or something."  She is always wondering what Zoe is doing.  Often times she'll say that Zoe is "probably" doing whatever she's doing.  If we're dancing, "Zoe's probably dancing with Jesus right now."

As a child, an entire year feels like an eternity.  As an adult, a year doesn't seem long enough.  This past year has been so much of a blur.  Between surviving the holiday season, Andrew's new job, Londyn's first year of preschool, starting my own business and getting through all of Zoe's anniversaries. I can't really say how we got from point A to point B.  But what's important is that we did.  We have felt the greatest peace and deepest of sorrows as a family.  I wish I could say that it is all up from here, but that's not how it works.  After losing a child, there is no "Get Out of Jail Free" card.  As I mentioned before, life goes on.  We are still given trials and weaknesses.  Not because it isn't fair, but because Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to learn.  He never stops giving us opportunities to become more like Him.  Zoe enabled us to learn and grow in ways that wouldn't have been possible if she hadn't joined our family.  We are truly better people and children of God because of the lessons she taught us.

My dear friend Laura and I have had kindred conversations about our similar experiences.  Her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 5.  With multiple operations and chemotherapy, he is cancer free and living a life that every boy his age should.  Although our situations are different, we have both witnessed miracles and felt peace with God's will.  On several occasions Laura has referenced a talk by Elder Shayne M. Bowen from the October 2012 General Conference, titled "Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also."  This talk was given just a little over a month after Zoe died and has brought me so much comfort since then.  It is a good reminder when I'm having a rough day.

After the sudden death of his 8 month old son Tyson, Elder Bowen shares:

Sometimes people will ask, “How long did it take you to get over it?” The truth is, you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I will never have a fulness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the First Resurrection.
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
“And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.”3

But in the meantime, as the Savior taught, we can continue with good cheer.4
I have learned that the bitter, almost unbearable pain can become sweet as you turn to your Father in Heaven and plead for His comfort that comes through His plan; His Son, Jesus Christ; and His Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost.
What a glorious blessing this is in our lives. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t feel great sorrow when we lose a child? How grateful I am to my Father in Heaven that He allows us to love deeply and love eternally. How grateful I am for eternal families. How grateful I am that He has revealed once again through His living prophets the glorious plan of redemption.
Remember as you attended the funeral of your loved one the feelings in your heart as you drove away from the cemetery and looked back to see that solitary casket—wondering if your heart would break.
I testify that because of Him, even our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fulness of joy. I testify that we can depend on Him and when He said:
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”5
I testify that, as stated in Preach My Gospel, “as we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”6
I testify that on that bright, glorious morning of the First Resurrection, your loved ones and mine will come forth from the grave as promised by the Lord Himself and we will have a fulness of joy. Because He lives, they and we shall live also. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I am grateful for this precious reminder that Zoe is waiting for us on the other side.  Our family is forever and the pain that we feel now is only temporary.  A joy greater than we can comprehend is yet to come.  
Many have asked what we have planned for August 31st, the anniversary of Zoe's passing.  Lately I have thought a lot about that day and what sticks out the most is how quickly everything happened and the numbing pain that I felt when we gave her to our Funeral Director Deborah and left the hospital without her. Our baby had just died and it was more horrible than I could have ever imagined.  Nothing, no amount of time, no warning can prepare you for that loss.  Andrew and I are still coming up with a plan for the 31st but know that ultimately, we just need to be together.  
Some have asked if there is anything they can do.  My deepest fear is that as years pass by, Zoe will be forgotten.  When horrible things happen, eventually everyone else moves on.  As a mother, I don't believe you can "get over it" or move on, rather the pain and loss become more manageable.  If you would like to do something to remember Zoe, you are welcome to join us on Saturday, August 31st by wearing RED and touching another's life in a positive way.  Both of these things always remind me of Zoe.  They are small and simple but will bring light to a difficult day.  We would love to see photos of all the red and hear about your good deeds for Zoe on Facebook at Zoe Grace: Half a Heart, Full of Love.

Checking in for surgery at 5:30am on August 22, 2012

When I look at these photos of Andrew and I, I still remember the hope and relief that we felt that morning.  We had made it to the Glenn and this would ensure more time with her.  In fact, after we handed her off to the anesthesia nurse... we were eager for this next step.  Typically after the Glenn, HLHS kids don't need their third surgery until they are 3-4 years old. We looked forward to a few years  of potentially no surgery and a healthier heart for Zozo.

I wish I had held her just a little longer.

When I look at these photos of Zoe, I think she knew.  She was holding on for as long as she could.  For us.  But she knew she wouldn't need to suffer much longer.

Our sweet little fighter.

No comments: