We don’t want Avery and Lily to grow up dreading the anniversary of their sister’s death…it will be a day that will be commemorated for as long as we are alive. We also want them to know that they don’t have to cry or grieve in silence, alone. But that they have a group of people who love them and adore them and will support them wholeheartedly. I know Avery and Lily are too young to really comprehend what it means when they tell us Zoe is in Heaven and I know that as they get older and begin to comprehend that they too will have a grieving period to experience.
I subscribe to the National Share (support for pregnancy and infant loss) newsletter and they really do a fantastic job in compiling stories and writings from parents. The most recent newsletter focused solely on the grief of children when a sibling dies. Most of the entries were written by siblings or from the perspective of a sibling. The resounding message I got from the issue was to not sweep the death of a sibling under the rug…thinking you can just “deal with it later” will not help the grieving sibling, even if at the time of the death of the infant the sibling is too young to understand (as is our situation). It further acknowledged what Richard and I do in our daily lives…Zoe is here, everywhere around us. Her pictures are up, we talk about her, we weave her into our lives in a manner that is very natural. I hope and pray that when the time comes that Avery and Lily really do know what it means to have a sister in Heaven that Richard and I will have the wisdom, understanding, and compassion to help them through their grief in a healthy and loving way.
I believe that we are planting that seed even now, as in how we spent our time at the beach. We did a balloon release in Zoe’s signature color, lavender. It was cold and windy but the girls were very sweet and drew pictures on some of the balloons and gave them kisses. After the balloons had disappeared behind the clouds, a single seagull came flying by. It circled us a few times and then just stayed kind of close by. It was probably wondering if we had food to give it, but I said “Maybe it’s Zoe telling us she got the balloons.” Avery and Lily both said “Hi Yoey bood”. And then proceeded to chase it! The next day we saw another seagull and Lily said “Hi Yoey bood.” It was pretty darn cute.
The other thing we did was to gather a bunch of scrapbooking papers and supplies and make our own Zoe memory books. I printed about 500 photos of her and hand selected a scrapbook for each person based on what I thought they would pick themselves. So the one good thing about the cold weather was we were inside, sitting around this huge table, doing something creative, looking at photos of Zoe, Avery, and Lily and just being together. It was really great. No I didn’t finish mine yet, I’ve still got a page and a half to go, but considering I am so not a scrapbooker I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got.
I did get a little sad when I was looking through the photos; the same photos I’ve seen a million times before and realized there won’t be any new photos of Zoe. What I have is what I have and that’s it…no more. No more birthday pictures or just being silly pictures, so cute pictures of her walking hand in hand with her sisters, no princess dress up pictures…I’ve got tons of photos but that’s all I’ve got. I had this same realization the other weekend when I was cleaning out the girls’ closet for our multiples club consignment sale. I was dividing the clothes into groups based on single items, coordinating items, and matching items. I had only one “triplet” set of little jumpers that was left over from the three of them…everything else was a “twin” set. That also made me cry…this is only the second time since they were born that I’ve cleaned out their closet and already I have no more Zoe clothes. I was going through them and remembering the days Avery wore this or Lily wore that and smiling at the memories. I can still do that with what I’ve got of Zoe’s that I’ve kept…but again, what I have is it…no more.
I know I’m not “supposed” to cling to the “things”, and that her “memory will be alive in my heart forever”…blah, blah, blah…I’m sorry but it just stinks! She was a baby and she’s gone and I hate it! There is so much that I won’t get to do with her, so much that I dreamed of and now that’s it, just dreams. I think I kind of floated through the week at the beach a bit. I didn’t even really get that sad…just once or twice while I was alone in the shower and maybe a few tears when we talked about her with Alice. I don’t know what it was, but I did feel joy during the trip, I wanted to feel joy…it’s just such an odd thing to commemorate the death of a child…it really is unnatural in every sense. Like I said though, I think we did a good job as a couple and as a family and I know we’ll continue each year to do something similar, but it still is just an odd sensation.
Lately there have been a few moms on some of the message boards I’m on all coming up on birthdays and anniversaries and the same message keeps circulating “What should I do? Whatever I think of never seems like enough.” To which I reply with what my counselor told me “No matter WHAT you do it won’t be enough, ever…you could do 100 different things and it would never be enough. What IS enough is our love for our children.” Why do we as parents and mothers think that our love isn’t simply enough? Why not? It is a love unlike any other…some have described it as primal…the intensity of love that you have for your child is immeasurable, beyond compare, and completely indescribable. Someone without a child can scarcely begin to understand it. Richard and I were talking about Avery and Lily (and Zoe too of course) and how we just look at these little girls that we produced and we literally can’t stand it. We are completely overwhelmed by the enormity of our love for these wonderful, beautiful, amazing little girls. And I do believe that Zoe’s death has increased our capacity for love and compassion. Whenever I read of another ill child or infant who has died my heart breaks for the family and for the mother…I cry every single time and can’t get them out of my mind for days, if at all. I recently read of a mother whose son is sick and couldn’t come off the ventilator. She wrote of how the doctors extubated him and then he just wouldn’t breathe and how she begged the doctors to let her try to comfort him. Her sense of panic was so clear in just the two sentences that she wrote…I felt like I was standing at her son’s bedside with her and could feel that sense of dread and fear creep up my spine. It was all too familiar.
I don’t think I had a really good, get-it-all-out kind of a cry until a few days after we got back from our trip. But I did have it and it was good. I kind of know when my grief is coming on…it is always there kind of hanging around but more times now I am able to kind of push it aside (not the thoughts of Zoe, but the all consuming, I can’t think of anything else part of the grief) and go on with my days. Now I notice, I’ll have a few days where I simply can NOT focus, I mean at all…all of sudden I just can’t complete a task and then I get that anxiety that creeps in…it just kind of settles in and makes me feel uneasy all the time and then the insomnia comes and then….then…I’ll be sad, just really, really sad. My birthday is around the corner and people keep asking me what I want. It truly don’t want a thing because the one and only thing I want I can’t have. I used to be able to come up with a pretty good sized list of “things” I needed…but not anymore. All I need is God, my husband, my surviving daughters, and for Zoe to be with me always.
I’ve had a couple more Zoe moments in the last month or so. These however did not involve a ladybug. I was praying really hard to “see” Zoe, to “feel” her presence and one night as I was falling asleep I had this vision of me, lying on the bed between Avery and Lily and this soft white light hovering above us. I felt like I was trying to focus on the light to see what it was and all of I sudden I said out loud “it’s Zoe!” and with this instant comprehension came this warm sensation that rushed from my head down through my toes. I truly felt her there kind of enveloping us. Then…just last week I was again having insomnia, and I went to lie down in the guest bedroom…the room Zoe shared with us. Sometimes I lie in that bed and visualize her there and the mornings I’d lay her on the pillow next to me with Avery and Lily and we’d all just snuggle. Again, I was praying hard for her to pay me a visit and again I was kind of falling asleep when I felt something next to me in the bed (I was alone)…it had the sensation of about the size of Lily or Avery (they were both asleep in their room) and again this rush of warmth just covered my body and as that happened I had this conscious understanding or “knowing” that she was there. I want these moments to last and they never do for very long…I just stay really, really still in hopes that I can cling to the moment just a second longer.
I wonder if Zoe visits Avery and Lily in their dreams. I know they dream because they talk in their sleep…especially Miss Lily. She says some funny things in her sleep too…she must dream about eating a lot because she’s usually saying “cracker” or “avocado” or something like that. Poor Avery though has had a couple of nightmares where she is crying “no, no, no”, then again it could just be that she’s dreaming about me telling her I need to change her diaper. Speaking of diapers…I would guess that by summertime we won’t need them anymore. Avery goes tee tee in the potty every day at least twice per day if not three or four times. And Lily tries to every single time Avery does. What’s really funny though is Lily will sit on the potty and sometimes she lets out a little toot and she’ll say “There’s a frog in there. Where’s the frog?” It makes me laugh every single time! Lily is also very sweet with their doll house. She goes right to it every morning and says “good morning” to all of the family members. She’ll show me when the baby uses the potty or when the big sister washes her hands. The Daddy brings home pizza for dinner and mommy takes baby for a stroller ride.
It is just so amazing to see their creative imaginations at work. They really do amaze me. They sing songs and are starting to be able to identify letters in the alphabet…they know A, L, Z, M, and D (Avery, Lily, Zoe, Mommy, Daddy) and we’re working on the others. They are still very much into music. Avery will say “Yets dance togever” and you have to take her hands and dance around the room…which of course we do every single time. They currently love to play hide and seek…they tell me to hide and you can hear them count and they close their eyes half way. They love it! Especially if I hide somewhere they aren’t expecting.
I am so thankful to have their sweet little voices and beautiful shining faces in my life every single day. I cannot imagine if I didn’t have them and I pray God will let me keep them here for a while. I’ve got some very cute video footage of them walking around the house holding hands…they’ll say “fwends” and then either hug or hold hands…it melts my heart every time.
You can't tell from the angle, but we're flying
a ladybug kite