Hours passed. Days passed. Then a week. A month. A year. Every moment takes me away from the last time. The last time I bathed her. The last time I changed her diaper. Fed her. Felt her breath on skin.
The days leading up to Zoey’s death still trouble me. In the last few days, the guilt has reared its ugly head. I wonder if there is something more I could have done. Or something I should have handled differently. I spent her entire life trying to do what made her happy. To make her comfortable. And in those last days, I fear I failed. I know I loved her. I know she felt it. But there are memories, feelings that you can’t stop from washing over you. You have to take them. You’re powerless to them. You have to hold on. Hold your breath. You have to lay there, grasping at your chest where your child should be, sobbing until you can’t anymore. Until you fall asleep. Until there’s nothing left.
I look back at the photos that document her last days with us. The ones I took before I knew they would be the last ones. August 25th: took her to the doctor to see about a referral to a cardiac surgeon. To fix the hole in her heart. August 26th: the emergency room. Checking to see if she had an intestinal blockage. The ones where she looks so miserable. Swollen. Uncomfortable. Unhappy. We put in a feeding tube that night at the hospital. Thought it was the right choice. She ripped it out as soon as we got home. I think she was telling me. I didn’t listen. It was the night we could not soothe her. Joe was out of town. My mom stayed with me at the house. I snuck away for the first time in her life to my own bed. Only for an hour or so. August 27: our nurse came to the house and put in a new feeding tube. I swaddled her so she couldn’t get her little hands to it. She did not like to be swaddled. And then the call. The one where they said they saw something on the scan from the emergency room they didn’t see before. Take out the tube. Give her morphine. Hold her. Prepare to say goodbye. The 28th: I took a selfie with Zoey. I was embarrassed to ask someone else to take my picture with my dying child. I was afraid they’d think it was weird. That I shouldn’t record that day with a photo. But she looks peaceful. Resting against my chest.
Joe and I had given her a bath earlier that morning. She hated bath time, but it just seemed like it was the only thing I had left do to for her. And while we were drying her off, she opened her eyes for the last time. She was telling us goodbye. And then I just held her. Nestled next to my heart—the place she belonged. I felt her heart beat for the last time. Quietly, softly she slipped from this earth. The moment her soul left us was as peaceful and beautiful as it could be.
I wanted her heart to start beating again. I wanted all the conversations about her dying to be worst case scenario imaginations. I did not want her to leave me. I’d already told her that it was okay. That I understood . That she’d see her grandpa and great-grandma and Hattie. That she wouldn’t be alone. And that we’d always love her.
The hours after haunt me. Feeling her body go cold. Stiffening. I changed her clothes. Wondered if I should put on a diaper. Or leave her without. I kept layering blankets on her—unaware that the funeral director really just wanted another one to cover her.
I didn’t want it to be real.
And then I had to give her away. I touched those tiny little bunny feet for the last time. Tried to burn the memory of her blue eyes. And kissed her goodbye.
I love you Zoey Tamsyn. I miss you. You were the best part of me and gave me the most amazing months of my life. You changed me. You taught me so much. You continue to teach me. Resilience. Love. Hope. I pray my love finds you wherever you are.