As I mentioned before, things have been a little crazy around here. Some amazingly good (check back Wednesday for more info!), but some has been heartbreakingly bad.
Almost ten years ago, this totally cool chick named Arin staked a place in my heart. We met when she was a student at the massage therapy school where I was the Career Services manager and then when I actually started running massage clinics, I recruited her to work for me. She’s this fun-loving Puerto Rican from Brooklyn that somehow ended up in Arizona and we’d hang out whenever we could. She was the one that turned me on to this obscure band by the name of The Black Eyed Peas and the one that could hit a softball waaayyy out of a ballpark when given the right pitch. Besides being amazing, she would do anything to help a friend in need. Obviously, you can never have too many of those.
In May of 2006 I left Phoenix for Texas, and in July of 2007 Arin headed to Arkansas to be closer to ailing family. Once in Arkansas, she started going to church more often, met a great guy and fell in love, marrying Jon in May of 2008. Nine months later, Eden Grace blessed their lives and December 22nd of this past year, the birth of Zoe River added one more member to their little family.
As many moms know that have given birth in the winter, babies get all the nasties associated with the cold weather and Zoe was no exception. She seemed to get respiratory infections left and right and constantly was at the doctor’s office. Of course, everyone just thought it was a cold or asthma. That is, until three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago on May 6th, Zoe woke up with not only respiratory issues, but also with left side paralysis. Of course, Arin and Jon rushed her to the hospital where doctors ordered test upon test to rule out such conditions as Bells Palsy and a slew of viral infections. Finally, in need of the resources at a bigger facility, they sent Zoe to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock where two days after Mother’s Day and on their third anniversary, Arin and Jon received the horrible news; Zoe had a stage 3 neuroblastoma tumor wrapped around her spine and part of her esophagus, causing the paralysis and making it difficult for her to breathe.
I cannot even begin to tell you the feelings I experienced when I heard the news. Absolute panic and gut-wrenching fear topped the list, as I am all-too familiar with cancer, including neuroblastoma. I knew the prognosis was grim, especially at stage three. And for a not-even five month old? Terrifying. Plus I am six hours away by car with a toddler in tow, so my support was limited to prayers, Facebook and email. I was literally sick for my dear friend. The thought that she was facing months of chemo, radiation and surgeries with little Zoe sent chills to the bottom of my soul.
Over the next week and a half Arin and Jon almost lost Zoe numerous times. Things looked promising, as she started to regain some movement in her legs, but the morning after Zoe River turned five months old things took a nasty turn and cancer claimed yet another victim. Zoe passed away at 4:20 am on Monday, May 23, 2011.
That fateful morning, as I had done every morning (and throughout the day) for the past two and a half weeks, I checked Arin’s Facebook page only to be inundated by condolence remarks. It felt like the world was sitting on my chest and I started bawling, startling my own child that was cuddled up on my lap. I hugged him tight and just let the tears flow. When I first starting blogging, tales of mothers with sick children had inspired me to write and now here I am, writing about a friend and the loss of her baby girl. It seems so surreal and incredibly unfair.
Friday afternoon Arin and Jon lay Zoe to rest. How I wish I could be there to give her a hug, to tell her that someday, although not any time soon, the heartache will lessen and she’ll be able to talk about Zoe without sobbing. That she’ll be able to go in Zoe’s room and pack away her clothes and toys, even if she can’t ever part with them. That her heart will heal, although never completely. And that someday, she’ll be reunited with her little angel once again when her time here on earth is through, but until then, that little angel is watching over them all.
I originally had planned on posting this Friday but emotion got the best of me that day. All I could think about is, as a mother, how do you ever get out of bed once you’ve lost a child that, five months prior, was literally a part of you? An extension of you, growing each day right under your heart, pure and innocent, just waiting to start its life on earth? In reality, I wonder how any mother ever buries their child, no matter what the age. The bond between a mother and child is like no other. Losing my father fourteen years ago was bad enough, but a child?!? Unimaginable. And here is my friend, living the nightmare every day.
To be honest, I could go on and on about the injustice, or I could preach about God having a plan or whatever cliche seems to fit, but frankly, it just doesn’t seem right. The only thing that seems right it to acknowledge Arin and Jon’s pain in losing their little girl…to let them know that they’re not alone, that they have friends, family and total strangers praying for them daily in hopes that the pain might lessen and that they make it through the day. If prayer is a part of your life, please, say a prayer for Arin, Jon and Eden that they might feel peace and experience the healing it takes for them to move on with their lives without their little Zoe. I would certainly appreciate the gesture, as would they.
Thanks for listening…I really needed to get this off my chest.
**As a side note, I guess the other thing that makes this so difficult is that three days before Zoe was rushed to the hospital, Jon (the sole provider in their family) had lost his job. As they are very active in their church and community, many people have stepped up to help the family through the Zoe River Byrne Family Contribution Fund set up at Arkansas’s Arvest Bank, but still it’s not enough. I know after losing my dad, I wasn’t in my right mind for months and going to work was not an option. If you feel inclined for any reason, please consider donating. The account is under Jon Byrne’s name, and when I get an account number I’ll be sure to pass it along.