Very few knew. Most had no idea.
Our meetings had come to an end. Every last question, answered. Dave and I decided we wanted Aviana's last days to be just the four of us. Our Hospice team was the best. They would call and check in - see how we were doing? How Aviana was? But also, ask if at any point we'd changed our minds about wanting to be by ourselves. During these phone calls we'd talk about how things were progressing, and ask any further questions.
One night, I was talking with our Hospice nurse, Beverly, who happens to be one of the most spiritually nurturing people I will probably ever know. We were having one of our normal conversations, but towards the end, she said something, which in one sentence, unwound every bit of the together I was. The words were so painful they inhibit my memory from now forming the exact order. As I attempt to recreate, I'm filled with gratitude in knowing they were delivered from the gentlest heart, and loving voice.
"Jen, you and Dave can put Aviana in anything you want to send her home."
I lost it. I couldn't breathe. Never once had the single thought crossed my mind. With tears pouring without end, my gaze shifted towards Dave. He had our beautiful, withering girl wrapped in his arms. In his hands, a book he was in the middle of reading her. As I looked on, the phone beside my head, I wanted to freeze time - to spare them from what my ears had heard. I wished to un-hear myself. I felt we had come so far, but as I looked at the two of them - I knew we had much further to go. I could already see the words written on the page. I knew it would be one of the single most difficult in our story.
We held Aviana. We cried for all this meant. For our past, our present, our future. For everything - really. This moment. The symbolic nature of what we were about to do was forcing us to collectively come full circle. Thoughts were rampant. The anticipation and excitement of meeting Aviana for the first time in Guatemala, especially after receiving 11 months worth of pictures. Finally getting our hands on this real child - our child. Dressing her in the first outfit we'd brought for her. Giving her a bath for the first time. Styling her hair as we wanted to for the first time!
In one painstaking moment, all our firsts were spinning around and looming down as lasts. Round and round we went. We were edging closer to the threshold, preparing to cross. The memories, flashing. Happy/sad. Smiling/not. And the tears, oh the tears. They were flowing, and not.
As we looked at each other, we shook our heads in disbelief by the heart wrenching decisions we continuously had to make. We decided it would be better to pick an outfit and place her in before she died. We would keep her in this chosen outfit, so we wouldn't have to change her afterward. We gave her a bath for the very last time - washing all her beautiful, long, hair for one last time. We made our famous, but last 'Avi-ritto' out of her and the towel. We laughed as we always did, but then. . . cried as we held her extra tight. We decided on her pure white dress. She always looked like an angel in white. I did her hair, and when it came to the color of bow, we picked purple because that's her Nana's favorite color. One of my best friends, Jen, brought her the most beautiful cross necklace, which completed the whole outfit. The moments were extreme, but beautiful. Wrenching, but loving. And Aviana, well she took our breath away.
Very few knew. Most had no idea. Those who happened to see Aviana prior, probably thought she was merely a beauty in white. In the majority of our pictures from this time, she's wearing the dress.
At the time we were told we could put her in the outfit of our choosing, we were also told to expect her to go within 24-48 hours. As you know, Aviana had other plans and continued far longer. We finally had to wash her dress. In the meantime, we of course decided on a Halloween outfit. During that time, she took a turn. One look and it was was obvious - she was much too comfortable to change back into her dress. We knew it would be harder for us in the end, but her well being was of most importance. It seemed all too fitting for our girl to go in a Halloween outfit.
Dave and I believe once someone dies, their spirit is gone and their body is a body. We respect that body, but just as we thought, it was more difficult for us to change her back into the dress. We managed okay though.
Wrapped in her soft, polka dot blanket, we handed Aviana over to the two gracious men in our front entry and watched them lovingly carry her down our walkway. They got into their van, one in the driver's seat, the other holding Aviana while putting his seat belt around the two of them. Down our road they drove.
We were lucky enough to have a wonderful Hospice social worker who made a request for a two person transport and a mortuary who had never once heard of this, but wanted to do anything and everything to make it easier for a family who was about to lose their 7-year-old little girl. The people who make the world a better place never cease to amaze and inspire me.
The way we chose was like the day of the accident. I felt it would provide closure for hearts, which could never before truly find any. I watched Aviana's vibrant being toddle down that walkway and drive out of my life once before. And now, we watched her leave our lives for the second and last time - at least physically. But this time, she was off to once again be that spunky, sweet, glowing, grinning girl she was meant to be!