I left my home the morning of December 4th to take Aziza to the hospital, thinking she was dehydrated from a tummy bug that had hit her the evening before. I fully expected to return a few hours later with Aziza. But she died ... and I have never since returned to spend a night in our home. Our home base is no longer our safe refuge. It is a place full of memories that force themselves upon me the second I enter the front door.
Aziza's little shoes remain placed by the front entry, her winter boots set beside them (she had worn slippers to the hospital). Her bowls are in the cabinets each time I reach for a cup, her tiny spoons and forks sit in a basket alongside the other cutlery. Her many jackets line our front entryway closet ... she didn't even wear one to the hospital "that day". I had wrapped her snuggly in her Bambi blanket to protect her from the cold.
Aziza started sleeping in my bedroom after being diagnosed with Tracheal Stenosis in September 2011. Her crib, and then her toddler bed set up directly across from mine. Laying on my bed I could clearly see and hear her to ensure she was safe ... I could listen to every breath. Now, her bed stands there with her butterfly bedding neatly made. Her "Monkey Pants", "Baby", and musical Dumbo are set against her beloved pillow.
Her toys are stored neatly on their shelves. Her DVDs put neatly in their cases. Her tricycle is on the balcony and her rocking horse stands stationary. Her music player sits turned to the "off" position. Silent. Her photos line every wall ... her happy smile beaming brightly from behind polished glass.
This is a home where a little girl used to live and play and love. This is a home that was full of giddy shrieks and constant laughter. And now ... emptiness.
So - a broken family, we left.
We left - fled - as a family seeking shelter. Shelter found only in the arms of those closest to us ... family ... friends. We have spent the past twenty-five days surrounded by love, much needed distraction, and support. We have surrounded ourselves with children. Some of Aziza's cousins ... some of Aziza's friends. Always people with whom we can talk openly about Aziza. Remembering, laughing and crying.
Remembering a little girl who touched all of us and changed so many families forever.
Laughing about a little girl whose smile would melt a heart in seconds, whose giggle could light up the darkest of days and whose quirky ways taught us all to love unconditionally.
And crying. Crying about a little girl taken far too soon, about an unidentified illness that has left more questions than answers, and about all the days that we will now have to face without her.
As I write this blog entry, I sit sheltered at a computer five hours away from my home base. Terrified of having to return one day. Thank you to all of our family and friends who have offered us shelter during this storm. Those who have offered us refuge from tragedy, and who have embraced us with endless love. Thank you to those who have housed us, those who have visited us and those who have held us. We love you. Thank you for reminding us of all of the family we have outside of our home base.