Four years ago, I was stuck in a custody battle for my fifteen-year-old daughter, Zoi. She wasn’t handling things well at all—so much so that she was living in a halfway house, but was able to come home and visit on weekends. This one particular weekend, I was planning for us to go to breakfast at the Mug N’ Muffin in our town and maybe catch a movie. I picked her up and brought her back to the house. She was upstairs listening to music in her bedroom, burning jasmine incense and putting one of those henna tattoos with a cool sun design on her hand. I went up and asked if she wanted to make some kale chips and she said, “Sure!” Afterwards, she helped me clean up the kitchen and said she wanted to go to bed early. As always, I said, “I love you, pumpkins,” and she said “I love you too, Dad.”
I sat down to do some work on my computer and went up a little later to say goodnight. I opened her bedroom door. Jonathan Fruiscante’s guitar was playing in softly on the stereo and a string of Christmas lights was lit around the perimeter of her room, but I didn’t see Zoi in her bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see she was standing in her closet. I thought she was going to jump out and scare me, and I said, “Zoi, what are you doing?” She didn’t answer me. She wasn’t standing in her closet.
I called 911.
A few days later, over 900 people came to Zoi’s wake. 900 people! Her friend Kelly came over to me crying. I gave her a big hug and I said, “It’s going to be ok, sweetie. Zoi would want you to remember all of the good times you had together, right?” And then Zoi’s friend Sarah came over and said, “I’m so sorry, Mr. Hodgdon. Zoi was so nice to me and she was always smiling.” A lot of friends told me how much Zoi impacted them, inspired them, and gave them hope. As more and more people came up to me, shared their stories of Zoi, and told me they were sorry for my loss, I was sorry for THEIR loss, because I knew what we were all going to be missing: her smile, voice, energy, and her philosophy to “just be.”