“When you live with an open heart, unexpected, joyful things happen.”
April 3rd, 2009
I got a copy of the autopsy report but I don’t remember where I kept it anymore. I looked at it once and that was it. The coroner who conducted it was at my house when Raquel passed away. I remember her being so stoic and for lack of a better word, cold. She was there when I first held Raquel’s cold little body. I remember looking at her and thinking, “So this is what it does to you, being around death everyday. It turns you into a cold person, too.” However, she did show traces of sympathy later when it was time for me to give up Raquel to them. I’m not sure if it’s SOP to call the family, but I felt her compassion when she took the time to call and tell me she was mailing out the autopsy report that day and to let me know that they couldn’t find anything. Hence, cause of death – SIDS. Funny how people in healthcare don’t realize that the smallest things, like their tone of voice and body language can leave such a mark to the person in the receiving end. I went to nursing school after Raquel’s demise and was a bit surprised to see how callous a lot (not all) of healthcare employees can be. Having been on the other end and knowing what I know now, it was pretty disheartening whenever I was around it. But in the coroner’s defense, she did make that phone call and I really appreciated this simple gesture of compassion.
Raquel was on her belly when she left us. So I wondered about the outcome, if there was a possibility of difficulty in her breathing. When I got the results, the first thing I looked for was suffocation. We used to leave an extra blanket or two in her bassinet to keep her warm. So I wanted to see if somehow she got smothered and couldn’t breathe. They did a full on investigation. Even checked our garage and the source of heat to see if probable furnace poisoning could have been a reason, but they didn’t find anything. Raquel simply left us in her sleep. She left this world peacefully in her sleep, to SIDS.
When Raquel left, it was a complete and utter shock. We all thought she was the healthiest little baby, so healthy that her pediatrician decided to skip one of her scheduled checkups saying there was no need for it.
It was their dad’s birthday the day before she passed. She was perfectly fine that day, she was her usual quiet, happy and good baby self. She was the best baby in the world! My older daughter was also really good so I thought she might come out being more challenging (at least hat’s what people say). But she was even easier than her sister! Already an angel since day one, always happy and content as long as she was fed and in her mommy’s arms.
Little did I know my world was about to fall apart and life changed forever. (Though days after she passed, our Nanny recounted something quite peculiar about Raquel the night before, as if she was saying goodbye. See post “Little Star”).
The following morning I got ready for work. I nursed her before I left like I always do. I left her at 8:00 am on the bed next to her daddy. Aaron said he got up around 10:00am when she started to cry. He held and rocked her then placed her in the bassinet once she was asleep. Around the same time, my brother called me on my cell from the airport to say goodbye. He and my sister-in-law were about to board the plane for their vacation to the Philippines.
Less than an hour later, I got another call this time on my work phone. I will never forget, it was about 11-11:15am and on the other line was Aaron (my daughters’ dad) – frantic and emotional saying Raquel stopped breathing. I almost thought, hoped, it was a cruel joke. I can still relive that very moment when I got the call. I remember it like the back of my hand. I started to scramble around, but I couldn’t scream. I was shaking, frantic but all I could say was, “I have to go! My baby! I have to go! My baby stopped breathing!”
A coworker ran after me and caught me at the elevator, told me he’d drive me. I don’t know if I’d still be around if he hadn’t done that. I didn’t even know I left all of my stuff, except for car keys and phone, until a few days later when my friend, Caro, said she was going to meet with my manager to get my purse.
The drive to my house was the longest car ride of my life. Halfway to the house, my coworker, Arlen, shared how he almost died when he was little but he’s here and he’s alive – trying to assure me everything was going to be fine. I was rocking back and forth in the car, stomach churning never feeling that helpless in life. I began bargaining with God. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted to wake up, I wanted to die. Each block felt like an eternity. I remember it all – how I felt, every emotion … the fear, the helplessness. But I can’t remember if I cried. I remember praying out loud and begging God, promising Him I would do anything and everything He wants me to do with my life and give up everything He wants me to if He would just spare me my child. I remember calling Nanny Juliet on the phone as we were getting close to the house and asking what hospital to go to. She said in the most gentle, sorrowful and eerily calm voice, “Just come home Meyz. Be careful and come home. They’re doing everything they can,” I had a feeling then that she was gone so I asked her, “She’s gone isn’t she? Just tell me now, she’s gone isn’t she?” She replied in the calmest voice, “They’re doing their best. Just come home safe Meyz, ok.” And that was the first time a wave came over me and I felt that she was gone – BUT… I was still hopeful. I thought I still had time to beg God. He works miracles everyday. If I beg hard enough He’ll give me mine…He has to give it to me…I have to believe it. I have to believe He’ll give it to me!
When we got to my neighborhood the cul-de-sac was swarming with police cars, maybe 7 or even more. I didn’t count, I just remember the whole cul-de-sac was filled with them. I didn’t want to get out of the car. Arlen tried to help me out but I didn’t want to go. Then one of the paramedics walked over to the car. I clearly remember the look in his eyes, a look I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I can’t remember his face, but I remember his eyes. Until this day I vividly remember them… for they were the ones that told me my baby just died. I see them right now as I’m typing this. I knew right then that she was gone.
He never said a word to me. He came up to me with his hand out nodding once, speaking to me … not with his lips… but speaking to me with his eyes. I didn’t want to leave the car, I didn’t want to go inside my house. We lived in a three-story townhome. Raquel was on the third floor in our room with forensics and the paramedics. When I finally got out of the car and entered the house, Aaron and Nanny Juliet ran up to me sobbing. They kept holding me and hugging me hysterically sobbing that she’s gone. That was the very first time I saw Aaron cry … but I couldn’t cry. I just sat there wanting to break free from their grasp. I wanted to be left alone, I wanted so hard to scream at them to leave me alone. But I couldn’t move, I felt trapped. I wanted to get mad, I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream but instead, I just sat on the floor – numb. Dazed. I couldn’t feel anything. The pain was so deep and so big, much bigger than me that it swallowed me whole. I was inside of it and it was inside of me. I didn’t know it’s possible for this kind of pain to exist, but I couldn’t even feel it. It hurt so bad that I couldn’t feel it at all. All I could feel was the floor, the floor felt cold. I didn’t want to go upstairs. I wanted to stay on that cold floor. Then all of a sudden I burst into tears … just for a few seconds … then it stopped. Like a switch went on and off, on and off.
I finally went upstairs and more family started arriving. Everyone around me was crying, hysterical – but I just sat there. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t feel. I remember hearing someone say in between tears, “Oh my God. Meyzel. She’s in shock.” I just sat there numb and confused, very confused … waiting to wake up. I felt like I was floating and I was in a dream. I kept thinking, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Somebody please wake me up!” All of a sudden the switch started again. I burst into tears and this time my older daughter was there. She came up to me and all I saw was her scared face and tears forming in her eyes. I can’t forget that moment when her lips began to quiver and her big brown eyes had a look of terror- that’s when I promised myself that I can never allow myself to fall apart in front of her, ever. So I stopped crying, I had to. Then I waited again for someone to wake me up. It felt like a dream, not just a figure of speech but it felt like I was inside a dream, a nightmare. I physically felt like I was kind of floating, almost like I was outside watching my life. I remember constantly wondering during that time which one was the dream – losing Raquel or having Raquel in my life at all. It all seemed like a dream.
I got home around noon but wasn’t allowed to see Raquel until 2pm. I was probably upset or should have been but I was too shocked to react. So I sat there and waited some more. The cops, forensics and medical examiners kept her upstairs in our room while they did a full on investigation. They looked at every room in the house, even our garage, checked the furnace, searched the house inside and out almost looking for evidence that it could have been our fault. Looking back, I am now able to appreciate this process knowing they don’t take an infant’s passing lightly.
When they finally gave me Raquel, they told me I only had ten minutes with her. I begged them for more time but they said unfortunately I only had ten minutes. Ten minutes to say goodbye to the baby who only a few hours ago I still kissed and nursed with my breast. Ten minutes to come home to my Raquel’s cold body when just hours ago her warm skin was still touching mine. I held her close. Except for the coldness of her body and some marks on her face from lack of oxygen and circulation, she still looked and felt the same to me. I held her tight. I kept kissing her lips. I kept rubbing her hands and kept my face on hers thinking I need to keep her warm. She’s so cold. I need to keep her warm. I can’t give her up to them. She’ll be too cold without me. She needs me to stay warm. Who’s going to keep her warm without me? I kept rubbing and breathing on her hands. Maybe if I hold her long enough and warm her up enough maybe she’ll come back to me. I kissed her and loved her. Caressed her face, kissed her lips. Told her it was ok, Mommy is here and it’s ok. I’m right here baby, it’s ok. I kissed her more, I loved her more. Though all eyes were on us, it felt like it was just me and her in the room. I wanted to keep loving her. Touching her face, warming up her lips with my kisses. I didn’t want to stop loving her, maybe she’ll come back, maybe my love can bring her back. Then all of sudden, my time was up. Just like that -my time was up. They did give me more than ten minutes – possibly twenty. Right before I gave her up to the coroner, not sure how I was able to think of it, but I asked for our pictures taken… just me and her… me and my baby, I wanted our last pictures together.
The experience I’m about to share is very precious and intimate to me. I know not everyone will believe me. I’ve had someone, a childhood friend, discount my experience and attempt to rationalize it with some obscure physiological theory. I understand that it comes from his atheistic beliefs. We live in a world operated by logic and reason making it hard to see that,
“We are not mortal beings having a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a mortal experience.”
There are certain events in life that simply cannot be explained by logic. The experience I’m about to share is one of them. This is when faith steps in.
I know, undoubtedly, it opened the door to my soul’s awakening. Almost a decade had gone by and the fact still remains that it happened… and it happened to me! If this experience can open the heart of just one person to let him know that life doesn’t end here and there’s much more than this earthly life, then telling it over and over again is worth it.
The day she left her earthly body fell on a Friday. I didn’t see her until three days later (Mon) at the funeral home. I spent the day there with my Mom, Juliet and three of my friends. I couldn’t bear to leave her there by herself. She needed me. I asked the owner if I could spend the night to be with her but he said no nicely. Then my Mom asked if we could take her home. We were blessed that the owner responded with kindness and compassion when he said there’s no reason we couldn’t, it wasn’t against the law.
So I took her home and had her in my arms all night in the rocker. At close to 3am my lower back started to hurt as she had gotten very heavy at this point. So we moved to the bed next to my Mom and a few minutes later… that’s when it happened –
A strong current flowed from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes and I felt every ounce of my soul screaming her name! RAQUEL!!! RAQUEL!!! RAQUEL!!! My soul screamed. I FELT my soul scream! It started with a zap and traveled as a current. It was so strong and thick it felt like an earthquake and electricity rocked my entire body. It was a strong current of full force energy that traveled from my head to my toes inside but mostly around me, surrounding me, covering and whirling around me for maybe 40 secs to a minute! It lingered for a long time! It felt like a thick mass of matter, of some sort of thick atmosphere, of energy, of something engulfing my entire body. The best way I can describe it is like being inside a tornado, it enveloped my entire being. I was in that in between space of being awake and falling asleep – that small window when I was completely woken up by the electric zap on my head. I was fully conscious and awake when this “tornado” was traveling through me, and I was cradling Raquel’s earthly body in my right arm while it was happening. Honestly speaking, after it ended I got pretty freaked out but thought maybe it was her way of giving me a hug. A friend told me years later (around 2016 or 2017) that in yoga it is believed to be a ‘Kundalini Awakening‘. When it was all over, I kissed her cheek and said “Thank you, baby.”
Oh how I miss her…
“The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”