My Advent Lectio series this year took a very abrupt turn after the initial post. Shortly after that post my wife found out that the child she was carrying, and we were eagerly expecting, had passed away in her womb. Thus began a long process of waiting, doctors office and hospital visits, and grieving. You can read about some of that process in the last two posts here and here. Today I’m probably wrapping up my reflections on this process in a neat trilogy of posts, but this does not mean the process has been neat or that we have stopped grieving. Quite the opposite actually. Which is what I want to explore a bit in this post.
After we found out that the heart of our little Zoey Grace had stopped beating, I wrote about in my first post how we entered a sort of liminal space. There was this small body in my wife who we knew was dead, but she had not been born yet. We were caught in an odd moment between the realities of life and death in our child’s life.
It was probably one of the hardest weeks of our lives.
Since then, my wife has given birth to Zoey and we held her small body. We worked with a very gracious and understanding funeral home to have her cremated. After receiving her remains, we traveled to San Francisco where we spread her ashes over the bay at the Marin Headlands with some close family. We said some prayers, read a bit of Psalm 139 and, as my wife said, “we returned Zoey Grace to God and nature.” Yesterday we also held a small memorial service with friends and family at our house. We shared some prayers, quotes and verses that have been meaningful to us during this time. We enjoyed some birthday cake for Zoey and revealed a shadowbox of memories from the events around her birth and death.
With all those events behind us, our family takes the first steps into this new life both with and without Zoey Grace. It’s an odd place where we know we really have two daughters, one who is with us and one who is not. Because Zoey is not with us, that does not mean we live as if she never entered our lives. She is now an important and necessary part of our story so we move forward with our new family into a new life.
I think the interaction between Mary and the angel Gabriel from this Sunday’s Gospel reading is appropriate for us during this time:
Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her
Luke 1:38 (CEB)
Zoey entered our life and left us much as the angel Gabriel came in to Mary’s life. Zoey came in and, even in her short time with us, she transformed our lives. Her time with us was brutally short and we still have many questions, our hearts still ache and they days ahead will not be easy. But, ultimately we accept that we are the Lord’s servants and we are thankful for the time we did get to spend with Zoey. We do wish it could have been much longer because we had great dreams and hopes, but as with Mary (and the Beatles) we are beginning to be able to say, “Let it be.”
One thing my wife has been saying during this time is that we can not treat our time with Zoey as a “Nevermind.” She was not a mistake, this was not an accident and there are no apologies to make. We have welcomed her as our daughter and felt her passing as deeply as any other family member. We are moving forward as a family, into a new life as new people into a new part of our story.
Our tiny angel Zoey, our tiny messenger of love and life, has left us.
We are the Lord’s servants. Let it be with us as the Lord has said.
And, along with Mary, we will never be the same.