Taking a deep breath, I slowly pushed open the heavy glass door to my workplace after a month-long absence.
Instantly ten heads swiveled round to see who had just walked in. I put on a careful smile and waited for the welcoming hellos. At first, there was shocked silence, I wondered what had happened to my co-worker’s natural ebullience – then I realized what it was that was keeping their attention.
Behind me, lumbered a massive, broad grey elephant. He seemed to take up most of the room. He could barely squeeze through the wide doorway. His ears flopped down till the middle of his stomach, and his trunk which was as wide as a postbox seemed to sweep the floor as he walked.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, two co-workers managed to rearrange their confused features and turned to mumble a lukewarm hello. Feeling a little unnerved, I made my way to my desk in silence, with everyone’s eyes on the elephant as it followed me to my corner of the room.
The daily hum of the office picked up, as I attempted to figure out how to best make up for the overdue assignments that had been sitting on my desk for too long.
My boss unexpectedly appeared in front of me, he seemed momentarily speechless as he gaped at the elephant. He fumbled for a few minutes before he regained his composure. If I was expecting him to acknowledge the grey monstrosity that was standing before him, I was sorely disappointed.
Making no indication to the lumbering mammal just a few feet away from him, he instead launched into a monologue about the latest assignments I was to complete by the end of the hour.
Finally, lunch hour arrived. I was relieved to get up from my desk and I looked forward to catching up with my colleagues. But when I looked around, the room was empty. It seemed as though they had all made a quick escape. The one, lone woman who remained, looked as though she desperately wished she was anywhere else except stuck in the same room as me and my floppy-eared companion.
I’ll admit it, I really tried to make conversation with her. But she stuck to monosyllables and her eyes kept darting from me to my elephant and then back again. Finally, she thought up a pretext and hurried out of the room as quickly as she could.
After an exhausting day at work, I figured that I would stop off at the shops before going home. As I walked into the grocery, I hoped I was imagining the sudden silence. But there was no mistaking the way everyone’s eyes were fixed on my buddy.
As I meandered through the aisles, throwing some basics into the basket, everyone I passed seemed to be incredibly interested in the nutritional values of the item they were holding.
Finally, one lady seemed to have found her tongue and she approached me. With a large smile, dripping with goodness she began to exclaim how good I looked and how nice it was that I was out shopping, and wasn’t the weather absolutely amazing?? Smiling just as wide, I opened my mouth to respond, then I noticed she was doing some delicate maneuvers, as she kept moving from side to side. I was wondering what on earth had happened to all these regular people who were my friends and neighbors!
Then realization dawned, my dear elephant found it hard to stay in one spot for too long, and now was moving restlessly around. Mrs. Do-gooder obviously did not want to catch even a glimpse of my elephant, and so she was forced to do a delicate dance as she tried to ignore it.
When I got home, I sank into the brown leather couch and rubbed my temples. I had been so excited, okay, and nervous, to get back to work and to see all my friends again. But it seemed that my elephant was keeping them all at bay. Some of them were too frightened to even look at him – let alone to talk about him.
I doubted they realized that this elephant was here to stay. He would always be softly bumbling behind me. Would everyone continue ignoring him? Would no one dare to get too close to me?
That night, as I settled down to sleep, with the elephant softly snoring in the corner, I wondered if I had any friends who were brave enough to look my elephant in the eye and say to me “I’m so sorry your baby died, would you like to tell me about him?”
It’s not until a tragedy strikes you personally that you begin to understand the fragility of life.
I found out that I was pregnant in November of 2019. At that time I wasn’t sure how to take that news. Shocked, happy, at a loss for words, excited, wondering if I was ready to do this again (18 years later) etc. Then I found out that I was having a daughter!!! The joy and excitement that was inside of me! Zoey (meaning LIFE) Madison (meaning Gift of God) Downs would be her name. Zoe, or Maddie for short. I knew that prayer worked. I knew that I would have a little me and looked forward to us having tea parties and spa days. The anticipation, knowing, and having the mindset that I would welcome a healthy baby girl within the next 9 months was so surreal. Or, maybe it wasn’t…
Fast-forward 4 months later, February 20, 2020, at 10:15 pm, my life began a different book. Zoey Madison made her grand entrance, but it was quiet and peaceful. The cries that you would hope to hear were replaced with silence. The joy and excitement you would hope to see from your doctors and nurses were replaced with condolences.
The room was silent, but Zoey was beautiful. The initial shock hadn’t set it yet, but Zoey had 10 toes and 10 fingers. There was so much going on around me, but my focus was on her. So tiny, so fragile, but so full of love. She was a little princess! A spitting image of her mother! She was everything that I had hoped for. But our 5-month bond had come to an end. My Zoey had gained her wings, and a new set of feelings, emotions, changes, mood swings that I had never experienced, were about to become a new life ritual.
As if losing my daughter wasn’t upsetting enough, now I would have to deal with these new emotions and her loss during a pandemic. Believe me when I say that God does not give us anything that we can’t handle. Losing Zoey at the beginning of a pandemic and then having to grieve in isolation was very challenging. The emotions are still a whirlwind. I’m very thankful that NILMDTS was able to capture moments that I never would have thought about. For those of you going through a difficult season during this pandemic with the loss of a child, know that you are not alone. Know that there are people for you to talk to, vent to, and express your feelings to. Know that you will forever have an angel watching over you! Our angels may not be here physically, but they will always be here spiritually!
“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”
– Isaiah 40:29
A Perfect Life
I think about you every minute of every single day. You’re my first thought when I wake up, and I dream of who you would be today in my sleep. You’re always perfect in my dreams.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on your life lately, short as it was, and what that means. One thing I am truly grateful for is that your life was perfect.
You never experienced any pain.
You never fought with anyone.
Nobody ever yelled at you.
You never had your heart broken.
You never had to worry or stress about school or money or a job.
You were never teased or made fun of.
You never had to lose anyone or experience grief.
All you knew was love.
All you knew were people who loved you surrounding you, holding you, caring for you, snuggling you. Every minute of every one of your 38 days Earthside.
While it breaks my heart that you won’t experience life and its trials, as painful as they can be, I find a small amount of comfort in knowing that you are at peace and you only ever felt love. That you never had to suffer or go through any of the painful experiences in life that hurt me to think about as a parent. I don’t want your brother to go through these experiences, ever. I want to keep him in a bubble and shelter him as much as I can. But I know he will experience pain in some way, just as you would have if you were to grow older.
And still, at the same time, I wish you were here. I wish you were here so that I could go through these trials with you, right by your side. I wish I had the opportunity to protect you and teach you.
Instead, I’m just trying to find meaning and all the beauty I can in your short life. I’m trying to be grateful for at least this one thing, amidst all the pain of losing you. I’m trying to be your mom, and be the best one I can, even though you’re not with me physically.
I miss you all the time.