It has been such a long time since I last wrote anything on this blog. My focus has been shifted to the Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation website, Facebook page, and Twitter account...not to mention raising Zoe's surviving sisters, Avery and Lily who will be five years old in just over a month! I've also been fortunate enough to work with the Mississippi Perinatal Association in various ways and to connect with other parents like me who were changed forever by the premature birth of their baby and, in some cases, the death of that tiny beloved child. Life has been busy and it has been full. The Lord has truly revealed Himself to me in so many ways in the years since our triplets were born and Zoe died. He has strategically placed people in my life at certain points along this journey we call life...these people have made significant impacts in my life as I have wrestled with, defeated, and often wallowed in my grief. And each and every one of them were believers. Believers who truly hold on to the fact that God DOES work all things for good, that without Him there is no purpose in suffering, that our trials and our traumas refine our faith, draw us nearer to Him (if we so choose), and reveal that no matter what we face in this life...this life is only temporary. We are here for "only a little while"...that one day He will lift us up with His mighty hand. That all the nonsense and craziness and unfairness of this life will one day make sense. One day we will have no pain, no tears, no sadness. One day, we'll be where Zoe is...with Him in Heaven.
I have recently become fascinated with the role faith plays in the the human reaction to tragedy and our survival of unspeakable challenges. Weekly, my email box is full of stories from parents of premature babies, parents of children with special needs as a result of their prematurity, and parents who held a child and lost a child...no matter if they were only able to hold that child in their heart...most of these stories share three things:
1. The insatiable need we have to share our story, to tell people what happened to us and to our children. I don't get the sense that these stories are shared with me so I will pity them...but rather they are so changed by their experiences, they have to tell others and they have a desire that builds deep inside to help others who experience something similar. By telling their story they can assure another parent that they too have been there, have lived through it, and have survived it. To tell them that there is always hope.
2. The strength, courage, and will-power to keep living amidst some of the most tragic and traumatic life experiences...these parents continue to fight for their children, fight for their families, and fight for their role as a parent...even if they have no living children.
3. Faith and belief in a God that will take care of them. An assurance that He always has and always will provide for his children.
Before I became a Christian I wrestled with the common misnomer that if you believe in God and you believe God is good, then bad things shouldn't happen and yet bad things happen daily, all over the world. I was astonished if I heard a Christian say that God has a plan and his plan is good...as they stood in front of the hurricane ravaged ruins of their home or as they sat vigil at the bedside of a loved one dying a slow and painful death. Loss, pain, grief...how could this be good??? How could anyone still believe in God if THIS is what happens.
Now that I am a believer, I say thank you to God for my trials, for my suffering, for my grief...because the good that has come out of it has arms and legs and ripple effects that I do not even see with my human eyes. Would I want to relive the extremely premature birth of my daughters, 9 1/2 months in the NICU, the near breakdown of my marriage, and the events of Saturday, February 16, 2008 when Zoe died...of course not! But, I can say, with true conviction that I am eternally thankful for what I have learned as a result of these experiences. I am truly thankful that I took the advice of a very wise Christian grief counselor who looked me square in the eyes and said "Keira, you have a choice to make and the choice is yours alone. You can allow Zoe's death to make you bitter or you can let it make you better." And she was right! Had I continued along my path of digging my heals into the sticky and binding mud of my grief, I honestly don't know where I'd be. I am even embarassed to say that I may not be living to sit and type this post tonight...it was that bad at some points.
I chose to turn the other way. I leaned into God, not away from Him. I looked to Him and to His Word for answers, for comfort, for assurance, for truth. I searched for a security that could not come from anywhere else but him. For a peace that surpasses all understanding...I know that peace now...I've felt it...it is real! I have seen that peace in Zoe, throughout her short life and even just hours before her death. She was in respiratory distress, and yet she looked at me through the bi-pap mask, squeezed my finger, and twirled a lock of my hair. She was just a few short hours from death and yet here she was, lucid, aware, and calm. Angels had to be surrounding her bed that night. They had to be singing softly to her. She was filled with that peace...that peace than can only come from the Lord.
I have experienced the hand of God in my life, I have felt his presence within my heart. I have felt him fill that hole inside of me that aches for my daughter. Though the hole may empty again from time to time, He never fails to fill me up again. And I am so very, very thankful for it!
Before I had my girls, I thought I was a believer...but I only had head knowledge...I did not have heart knowledge. Only after they were born 15 weeks early and survived and only after Zoe died at 14 months old did I truly find that heart knowledge. It was Zoe's death and Avery & Lily's life that brought me to God. Three babies...three beautiful, innocent little beings. I believe that a child reflects God's love more purely than any adult...their love is so transparent...so adoring, so accepting & forgiving, so all-encompassing, and we crave that love from them, just like we crave His love. We crave those smiles when they see us walk in a room or the squeals of delight when we first pick them up out of their cribs. I've written before that children are not cloaked in life experience, they are not muddied by prejudices or preconceived notions...they are completely open to giving love and being loved.
Zoe exuded a calm and assured sense of grace and dare I say dignity (in a 1 year old!). As I read through 1Peter in my Bible study this semester, I learned how important it is to quietly live out your life as a child of God because actions speak far louder than any words. How we treat people is a reflection of God's love. How we care for others is a reflection of God's love. How we handle suffering and adversity is a reflection of God's love. Our humility, our quiet grace, and willingness to serve others joyfully (however that may look in your life) is a reflection of God's love. The absence of judging others is a reflection of God's love. We are walking examples of God's love and how we act can draw people to Him or turn them on their heels and send them running off into the hills.
Zoe had this love...this peace...this quiet grace. And she had joy...an overabundance of joy despite the terribly rough beginning she had in life, despite the many challenges she faced in her development and yet to this very day...4 years since she was in the NICU...new nurses come on staff in that unit and they hear about Zoe. They email me and tell me they feel as though they know her...that they have heard about how big her smile was, how warm her clear green eyes were. That people in the hospital who weren't even taking care of her would stop by her room in hopes of receiving one of those gummy smiles or hearing her sqeaky laugh that shook her entire chubby body. Zoe's life, though far shorter than I ever, ever, ever would have hoped...has impacted lives in far reaching places. To meet me is to come to know Zoe and I hope to see God's faithfulness. To see her photo and feel connected to this little girl who couldn't even talk and yet she would draw you in, pull you close, and grab hold of a part of your heart you will never get back...because she has it. She has it with her, safely kept in Heaven until we see her one day and she can introduce us to the very God who made Heaven a reality, who made me a reality, and who saw fit to bless me with the priviledge of getting to know my daughter and to raise her surviving sisters.
Zoe...my love, my sweet Warrior Princess...I miss you every day. Every day I wonder what life would be like if you were here. Every day your sisters talk about you...sometimes even pretend to talk to you and tell us what you say to them. I thank you for the assurance of your presence in our lives. Eventhough I can no longer hold you in my arms or feel the silky softness of your dark brown hair, I know you are here. I long for the day when I will watch you run towards me with your white dress billowing behind you, that smile I know so well spread across your face, and this time I will catch you and hold you to my heart and we'll twirl around and around and dance and laugh and sing together. One day, Zoe...one day I'll be there too.
|Zoe & mom, 8 months old|
|Zoe, two weeks before she died|
14 months old
|Lily, Avery, & Zoe 8 months old|
|Lily & Avery today...almost 5 years old!|