On the 4th of April I woke up, as I thought I would (or maybe willed myself to do) at 3.40am, the time Zoe was born in 2006.
Many grieving parents say that it’s often not the specials days themselves – birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day, Christmas – that are hard, it’s the days leading up to them and the anticipation of them. I’d had a rough few days. I couldn’t concentrate and just wanted all the swirling thoughts in my head to go away. I was having trouble keeping the momentum for The Angel Zoe Kindness Project going when I just wanted to hide away in my bed instead and not speak to anyone. For the first time I felt I was not coping and started considering grief counselling.But when I woke on Zoe’s birthday I felt calm. I talked to her in my head and thought through my plans for the day.
The night before I had posted photos on Facebook of Zoe on the day she was born and on all six of her birthdays. Checking in and seeing the comments of people who knew and loved her helped me know I was not alone in grief.
Then I got up and iced 40 cupcakes!
I had saved a few acts of kindness for this day that were not so random.
- Two dozen cupcakes for the staff on Ward 27 (Oncology & Haematology) at Starship Children’s Hospital who every day go the extra mile for our chemo kids. Zoe always felt safe and loved when she went there, even when it was for procedures and treatment children should just not have to know about. She counted many of the nurses as her friends and had a funny flirtatious relationship with her primary oncologist where she would sometimes tell him jokes and sometimes pretend to be shy.
- One dozen cupcakes for the staff at the Starship Foundation, who raise millions off dollars every year for all of the extra things the health system does not provide for our children but that make such a difference to them. I also dropped off the gorgeous dance gear one of our page fans had donated for them to pass on to Starship kids.
- Kindness packs for the palliative care team who gave us comfort, care and support in Zoe’s last few weeks, but mostly just let us know that we were doing a good job of giving her the love she needed.
- Another kindness pack for our regular paediatric home care nurse.
- Some “Busy Books” for the Starship Emergency Department (inspired by Pennies of Time).
Back at home, having had nothing but cupcake icing for breakfast, I decided to go to our local cafe and have Zoe’s favourite brunch – eggs benedict with smoked salmon. This was another place I could feel connected to her. Before Zoe’s first diagnosis, at age two, it was fluffies here every Saturday after Soccer Tots with one of her best friends and the occasional eggs benedict for a treat. While she was on treatment, it was more fluffies whenever she had enough white cells to make it less risky to venture out and whatever food we could convince her to eat. Once off treatment, she was able to eat eggs benedict again and took every opportunity. We had one last visit here in the last few weeks of Zoe’s life when she was on oxygen and not really eating at all.
Another check in to facebook showed me how much Zoe was in people’s thoughts. They were dropping by my page and the Project page to wish her a happy birthday and sharing photos and thoughts of her on their own pages.
Nykie from Mistral Photography wrote a beautiful tribute to Zoe and a reflection on what we leave behind. She had photographed Zoe several times, the first while she was on chemo and the last at her funeral.
Next on my agenda of keeping myself occupied all day was a visit to Pt Chev beach, where I drew in the sand to remember Zoe.
We visited this beach often and one of my most vivid memories of it is the late afternoon after her third birthday party, a few days after her biopsy and diagnosis. The sun was low across the water and Zoe and her cousin stripped down to their underpants, repeatedly running into the water, then out to warm their cold bodies on the sun-warmed stone wall. I had to keep reminding her not to get her surgical wound wet as she giggled and played. A lovely early autumn memory just days before we plunged into a dark winter of chemo and radiation.
I’d arranged a little pampering, a facial at home, a time to just relax and breathe. I gave a little kindness pack to the lady who did it for me and she asked for some of the printable cards so she could pay it forward.
A delivery of flowers from my brother and his family was another reminder that Zoe was in everyone’s hearts today.
I ended the day with a birthday candle in a cupcake for my baby girl.
I felt so blessed to feel my angel child so close all day.
Sweet dreams in heaven Zoe.