Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Year of the Nephew: Elliot ...

It was quite the adventure getting to meet you for the first time: On March 7 we got the news that you had been born and so that evening your aunt BethAnne, your cousin Matthew, your aunt Helen and I decided on impulse to drive to Regina to see you. It was around the middle of the night. Right at about Swift Current we hit an icy patch, spun around a couple of times and then the Cavalier flipped over and skidded on its roof across the highway and over to the middle of the median, where it gently settled into the snow. Your cousin Matthew, who was five years old at the time, remarked, "We were hanging upside down, just like bats!"

It was after 2:30 in the morning on March 8th.

We stayed in a motel for the rest of the night and when it was daylight we rented a car and carried on to Regina, where you and your Mom were in the hospital. We got to her room and there the three of you were: Bronwyn, Paul and Elliot, wrapped up in each other.

Everyone clamoured to hold you except for me. I stood at the foot of my sister's bed and just held back, watching her, watching you.

Your Dad and the other three left for a few moments but I wanted to be near the two of you so I sat on her bed and looked at you nestled up against her. She urged me to hold you, but I demurred. "I feel really shaky ... I'm not good with babies ... I like to look at him with you ..."

"I really want you to hold him," she said in a voice not much louder than a whisper. I looked at her face and then I reached out my arms and took you into them and drew you close to my heart.

The moment I did and I looked into your enormous blue eyes, something incredible happened to me. My heart, which had been pounded on and bruised and neglected by turns for over ten years, and which I had put into cold storage several years earlier to preserve what was left of it from any more pain, felt a little stirring, a little thawing, right at the smallest part of it, right at the point of it. As I gazed at you, you slid right into that point of my heart, the only part that was able to receive you. And then you closed your eyes and fell asleep in my arms. 

How could I wake you up and ask you please to vacate my heart and leave it alone? No one wakes up a baby! As I watched you sleeping, however, I felt my heart start to come awake again. It was an odd sensation, like pins and needles. I wasn't sure that I liked it. I was pretty sure I didn't want it. I handed you back to your mother, but as you left my arms you refused to budge from my heart.

There was apparently a reason I still had a heart ...

And so I made a deal with myself. I would put guards around the rest of it, but you could be the Point of my Heart.

Because I had a job that allowed me to travel to Regina, I came as often as I possibly could to see you (and your Mom and Dad but really you!). Your brother was born a couple of years after you, and  so I got to spend a bit more time with you by ourselves when your Mom had to tend him. As you grew older and we hung out together, I found we had something in common: we both loved small things. I had always been fascinated by miniature toys, dishes, elephants, pictures, objects of beauty. And here you were, liking tiny animals, toys, spaces, and especially balls.

For your third birthday I made you a Ball Book. I found pictures of round objects and stuck them on coloured paper and wrote a little narrative around each object. Then I got each page laminated and put them into a binder. You loved that book! And it was right around then that I experienced the very first piercing from the one sharp place a person's heart has:

"I know I'm the Point of your Heart," you said to me in your sweetly serious way. "But what is Oliver? Can he be the Ball of your Heart?" I looked down into your earnest face and I saw how much you loved your brother, how deeply you cared for other people even at that tender age, and the last barriers in my own heart were shattered.

It really, really hurt at the time. I hadn't thought that loving someone as much as I found I loved you could cause a heart to ache more than losing someone ever had. But it also showed me that a heart was resilient and was stretchable, and that once it started working properly again it could make room for other people without losing one iota of the love it had for the person in there already.

The little person firmly lodged in its point.

The years went by and you moved to Calgary. One day I was visiting you in your home and your Mom came to me with a piece of paper. "Elliot wrote a story," she said. "Would you like to read it?"

It was called Black Is A Rainbow. It painted the picture of a box of colours and how one colour felt utterly ugly, utterly misunderstood and marginalized until it  had the light shone on it so that all could see its rich beauty.

"Tell them to just look right inside you, you know, look inside your heart." 

I read your story to your Bop tonight and within moments he came up with three points that he perceived in your allegory:
  • Blind prejudice
  • Perceptive compassion
  • The rainbow's radiance of acceptance 
At six years old you had found a voice for social justice.

You continued to care about the small things: East Timor, Pluto (remember how upset you were because in Holst's The Planets there was no movement for Pluto? You will be happy to know that someone did write a movement for it in 2000; but when Pluto was demoted from planet-like status, the last movement was removed ...), little animals and tiny children. How proud I was to hear that you were a volunteer in Sunday School for the little kids age group!

Your heart ached for the plight of Somalia.

You went to work in the dispossessed part of downtown Vancouver on a missions trip

You also taught me a valuable life lesson one day when we were out driving somewhere together. You were still pretty young. We were talking about feeling valued, about feeling needed. "You are so valuable, Elliot," I said. 

"I know you value me," you answered. Then you glanced at me and after a moment you replied thoughtfully, "Just because something is valuable doesn't always mean that it's valued, though." You have taught me to be mindful to appreciate what has been given me, not merely to know its technical value.

At your Grams's funeral you were the grandson who talked about her relationship with God - about how much she loved God and how she wanted you boys to know God. Looking at you that day, catching glimpses of your pain and love on your face, I thought to myself, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

And that's you, my Point. That is not to say that you're a dull, boring, goody two-shoes type. Far from it. You have taught me an appreciation for U2 and Springsteen (here's your first album review!), given me a fresh perspective on Dylan, and a new love for Joel. I also love to listen to you playing the piano and guitar. I'm so impressed that you have started composing and I can't wait to hear your work.

You know your strengths and work on your weaknesses. You speak the truth with kindness and with compassion. You have started to think and live out that verse from the book of Micah which says,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here on your fifteenth birthday, I want to say thank you for putting up with your Aunt and entering into my plans and schemes around events. Thank you for making time for me even though you are now half-way through your teenage years. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and sense of humour.

Thank you for setting your priorities. Thank you for your perspective and your deep, quiet thoughtfulness. Thank you for never giving up.

Thank you from the point of my heart.


  1. Karyn, you've been a wonderful part of the heart of Elliot's world from the beginning on. You know him like few do. Elliot has the amazing gift of an open heart, like a doorway to light. I celebrate you as his amazing Aunt, and him!

  2. thank you so much! i really appreciate it =)

  3. What a wonderful tribute! It most definitely will have to be included in your "book"! Hugs to you!

  4. Wow, thank you for putting into words what I feel. Truly a wonderful grandson and and a wonderful aunt.


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