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: