I started getting messages back like, “Are you serious?”
I responded simply, “Yes, I am.”
People from all over started contacting me and my parents. Flowers and teddy bears started showing up by the tree in front of the house to form a small shrine for Zuzia.
I was so shocked and devastated. My first real thought was, “I need money to bury my daughter.”
I had my father drive me to doctors’ offices, stores, schools, churches and any other place that I could think of, to ask for money for Zuzanna’s funeral.
In a mean time, the news was all over the media, Facebook, and everywhere else imaginable. My friends started writing their own posts on my behalf, and asking for funds. They offered me Dj services, flowers, food etc. The news went viral and everyone knew about what had happened. My best friends flew in from Arizona and money wrapped in condolences swept in. The expenses for the funeral were soon covered.
The whole experience felt like a bad dream. No, a nightmare. The most memorable things from the first few days were the tears. All I felt was sadness and so much anger. More anger than I knew what to do with. The sadness and anger rolled together and boiled over in spontaneous bursts of tears.
It felt like I was drowning in sorrow, and I just kept trying to grab on to any piece of help I could get.
The funeral homes visits to choose the venue went by so fast.
Once the funeral home was open and reserved, I decided to go in look at the crime scene. I assured myself it was to see the scene and make myself realize that this was not a dream. She really is not here and break myself out of my non-belief.
The wake and funeral were scheduled. So was the time reserved for taking a look at Zuzanna before I put her on display for everyone else.
My friend offered to take pictures of the wake and the funeral.
Another friend offered to bring flowers and fill the funeral home and church with their beautiful arrangements.
I had an idea to put a tv above her coffin, and play all of her favorite songs and cherished moments. I asked my Dj friend to put her pictures and favorite songs together and have them play at the wake. I was at my wit’s end trying to stay busy and sane. My friend worked on the collection overnight and the funeral home had it all ready in the morning.
Shopping for a dress and shoes for Zuzanka was a difficult adventure because I knew that this marked the last time I would get to see her before they buried her.
That same evening before the wake, I went into the funeral home to see her. I wanted do her hair, put nail polish on her tiny hands and put lipstick on her.
It was a shock, she seemed like she just grew overnight but she was cold. She had scars on her tummy and her head. Her eyes were closed, she was all naked, laying on a metal like cold table, covered just with a little blanket. I couldn’t believe where I was and what I saw. My mind was racing, my heart was pounding so fast it felt like coming out of my body in a second. I closed my eyes and opened them again, I was still standing there, nothing has changed. Slowly I walked up to her and I put my head against her but I only felt coldness coming off of her and she was not responding to me. I tried thinking it was just a dream, closing my eyes again, tears kept coming down my cheek, my whole body was shivering and shaking. As if by looking at her, touching her, and hugging her I could bring her back. I was shaking all inside and crying out desperately, and my warm fingers couldn’t stop touching her. I kept running my fingers through her hair, touching her fingers, rubbing her cheeks, kissing her, touching her scars, trying to warm her up and have her respond to me. Nothing seemed to work, my kisses, my touch, my love was not enough. It was unbelievable that she was laying there cold, unresponsive, deaf, and all alone.
I took her favorite nail polish out, grabbed her little, cold hands and as usual polished her nails the way she has always liked them. Crying and shaking as I was doing it. I took a brush out and I slowly and gently grabbed and picked up her little tiny head, brushed her unresponsive hair into two little ponytails. I knew better that was the last time ever I get to do that, it was unbelievably hard to think of it that way. but she was just laying there not moving, not talking, not even blinking or even smiling. I took my time knowing this is not gonna happen ever again, I couldn’t stop crying and shaking, wiping my nose and my eyes.
The wake came the next day, I brought two of her favorite teddy bears with me. Alex the Lion and a sheep. She was laying there in a coffin dressed in a pretty white dress, white tights and white shoes that i brought in yesterday. Her bouncy ponytails, polished nails and favorite lipstick. I put the teddy bears by her side, grabbed onto her and started crying out loud, it was unbelievable. Touch her cold unresponsive little body again and again and to see her there laying just by herself. I was even more devastated being and standing there than the night before. It was open to the public, so people from all corners of our past, friends, family and people that I haven’t even known were there. They all stood there in a long line and came up to me to pay their respects. Lots of the people were crying and there was fear and sadness in their eyes. This is just a dream. I was in the middle of it there trying not to brake down, run away and scream.
After a few hours, it was time to say goodbye. I was not anywhere near ready for this. I knew once the coffin closed, there was no going back. I grabbed on to her, crying, shivering, shaking and started hugging and kissing her. There wasn’t an no end to my love for her. I just couldn’t let her go just like this. I kept thinking to myself. There still isn’t an end.
We started heading to the church to bless the coffin, and the Police Department blocked all the streets from funeral home to church to give a clear route. We stopped by my old house on the way there. There were two rainbows over our old home. It was amazing. Something so beautiful should have made me happy, but I only felt sadness.
Mass and the prayers passed quickly. More condolences were spread around, but that only added to surreality of the day. We had three priests at the church, a church full of people who cared for my daughter and our family. I could not tell you who was all there because there were so many faces.
Once we got to the cemetery, it was 70 degrees outside.
My brothers brought the coffin to the graveyard, tears running down their faces. Once the cemetery workers lowered her into the ground, it suddenly got freezing cold and started raining. The wind picked up like crazy. We couldn’t even lift the shovel up because we were shivering so violently. Eventually, my son overcame the trembling and put dirt over the coffin. Everyone there felt it the profound loss, and people started leaving and going back to their cars. My family kept standing there, frozen. After the dirt was tossed on the coffin, the sun came back out and it was hot again.
It was done. No more Zuzanka.
I felt so devastated and sad, and so very tired of crying and feeling helpless.
We went back to my parents home to host some of our closer family and friends.
I moved in to my parents’ house but it was different and felt empty and forced.
I was going to see a counselor twice or three times a week. I was trying to adjust, and cope with this new existence. It was very hard to live fully, go to work, and interact with people normally for a long while. I couldn’t find myself a place to be me. Find things to do to occupy my time. I had trouble finding people to be around that understood what I was going through. Everything was new but felt empty and lonely. Missing my daughter was one of the only real things I knew.
This is my reason for starting this charity. I know the pain of losing a loved one, especially someone so young. That’s why I want to spread acceptance and help to people that go through something like I did. I want to help those that feel as lost and helpless as I did.