I have a perfect nephew.
Four years ago, my amazing sister in law did the entire world a service and gave birth to my nephew, Zion. Generally I’m very candid about my family because they make such an integral part of who I am as a person; in the cathedral that is my heart, they fill rooms, upon rooms. They are the walls, and the paintings.
Months before Zion was born we were informed that he came with something called CHARGE syndrome– it was a ‘road less traveled’ moment, but not one of our own choosing. This changed the tone of the surrounding events, but not the heart of things. We were happy, and unprepared.
The first time I saw Zion, I had to scrub my arms with a special brush, medical soap and clean under my finger nails. I went with all the nerves my body allowed, and braced myself to see this new piece of my life. As I stuck my hands inside his tiny incubator I tried to understand how this newborn, 4 pound baby had so much life and joy and peace and intensity. I was head over heels in love.
I don’t speak about Zion often, and here is the biggest reason why: Zion is one of the most sacred things I have. He is brave, and strong, and loving without words. He is the real thing. When I do manage to gather words that could begin to describe him I worry because I don’t want my inability to convey who he is to reduce him to phrases that people can box him in. He is not a boy with a trachea tube, or a wheel chair, or CHARGE. He does not deserve your pity, or your looks, or people’s rudeness. He is the bravest, and the most loving child I know, and the fact that people will miss who he is- this funny, patient child who grasps things that I cannot reach- upsets me. Thus, Zion stays in my cathedral. He is in my journals, ever present in the fear that he won’t know my voice or how much I love him, that I didn’t play with him enough or at all for the sheer fear of hurting him.
I am clumsy, and weak and not gentle enough, and that knowledge informed my actions. I could not bear the thought of hurting Zion. And so I stayed away.
But you know what is amazing?
That we get to have him.
That my days are touched by the light of his existence.
That for the year and a half that I got to see him, however few times, I got to walk on sacred ground and tread in holy places.
And that is the thing about children like Zion- they take you on roads less traveled, they teach you, they remind you of the important things. They hold a mirror to who you really are, and ask the unasked, and say the unsaid, and love you all the same. They make life better by giving you a chance to feel and breathe and live. I cannot say everything about Zion, this person who has unified us as a family in unexpected ways, who has bound himself around my heart and taken so many broken things inside it, just to fix them.
I will say this: He is the birthday of my life.
Happy Birthday Zion.