Zoie Beth Gates
March 18, 1999 – November 3, 2001
Twenty-eight-year-old Britt Gates wrestled with her decision to make the overnight trip to Oklahoma City that November weekend. She and her two best friends were planning to attend a Christian women’s conference and she had been looking forward to their time together. A sudden family illness caused the threesome to become a twosome, and she questioned their plans. Nonetheless, Britt decided to stick to her commitment. She reminded herself how much she wanted the opportunity to grow in her faith.
She never dreamed her faith would have to grow so much.
The name Zoie means life, and that’s exactly what Zoie Gates exuded. At just two-and-a-half, she had already lived and loved more than some only dream. Zoie, it seemed, was mature for her age. She loved to spend time with her mommy, Britt, and her daddy, Jay, almost as much as they loved being with her. But to Britt and Jay, it seemed impossible to imagine that anyone could love or be more enamored with their little girl than they were. They had loved their relationship and life before Zoie was born. But Zoie, they believed, gave life to everything good and brought absolute perfection to their relationship and their family.
She will always be their oldest child.
Zoie was clinging to her mom a little more than usual as Britt prepared to leave for Oklahoma City. A few candies later and the promise to ride along with Daddy while he checked the cattle, and Zoie conceded with a grin and went with Jay to settle in for their father-daughter time while Britt was away. The Saturday morning routine for Zoie did not differ markedly from any other. The climactic moment of every morning for her was picking out the “pretty” for her hair. Jay, at only 27, had mastered many things in his life … including pony tails. Despite her girlish penchant for perfect hair, ribbons, bows and all things pink, Zoie also loved riding her horse and spending time with her parents at their business, the livestock sale barn in Anthony, Kan. She was comfortable around horses and cattle. Almost too comfortable, Jay decided that afternoon, so he laid her down for a nap in the back-seat of the four-door pick-up while he helped unload a truck of cattle that had just arrived for the following week’s sale. He turned the radio on to lull her and helped her settle in. He and the crew – all doting fans of Zoie – could see the pick-up from where they worked just 40 yards away. Zoie was in the truck less than five minutes. Jay looked up and saw her standing in the back seat. He turned to eye the activity of the cattle and turned back to check on Zoie.
It happened in less time than it takes to turn around.
Zoie stood and stretched through the window to play with a dog who eagerly sought her attention. In her maneuvers to reach the dog, Zoie leaned on the power window’s up-switch, causing the automatic window to roll towards its closed position – and taking her with it. Her neck was pinched by the force of the window between the glass and the window jam. No one ran faster to Zoie than Jay. No one tried harder to save her, even though a local paramedic ran to the sale barn when she heard the call come across her scanner. The force of the power window was more than Zoie’s body could take
It wasn’t a fair match.
Everything changed in an instant. Jay and Britt are left grappling with their shock, grief, and the “if onlys” and “what ifs” bearing down on their intense longing for Zoie. How did this happen? More importantly and more answerable, how can this happen? Aren’t cars – especially when parked – supposed to be safe? Did anyone know this was possible?
Yes. The automobile manufacturers know. They’ve known for a long time; barely longer than they’ve known how to prevent it.
Today, just a few short months after the loss of their only child, Britt and Jay cling to three very important commitments: God, each other, and making a difference. They feel like they have lost the purpose they had for their lives, but they hold fast to the knowledge that God still has His purpose, and every second of every day they allow Him to settle and re-settle into their hearts. As many times as it takes. They know Zoie’s legacy is more than the grief they are left holding instead of her. Zoie’s legacy is found in their faith challenged yet perfected, their marriage built honorably on friendship and love, their family that will continue to grow … and their courageous efforts will make life safer for other children.
Mommy and Daddy miss you, Zoie.