My Zion Adventure - an uplifting memoir
October 6th is my son Zion’s birthday and in 2015, that date was the last time I saw him in the flesh because he left that life by surprise shortly after. Obviously, the following year was a potent time for me and in the weeks leading up to that date in 2016, a book that I had started and let go of several years before began rising up again. Maybe the book came forth again in celebration of Zion’s birthday; maybe it’s a date that my mind and heart and body have so deeply associated with birthing something exquisite that this book about That Which Is Zion for me must come out.
Whatever the reason, when this kind of creative impulse moves me, I trust it. The Preface to My Zion Adventure started to write itself in my head while hiking next to an Australian river on my pilgrimage, so I let it loose through my fingers and am sharing it here because that feels right, too. Who knows if it’ll get entirely rewritten later, it is what it is right now and sharing it supports my work toward completion of the book. Sarah, October 2016
My Zion Adventure, by Sarah Wyckoff
“I met my husband the night my father died…” That was the first line of this book when I started writing it several years ago. A crescendo followed that opening statement to the death of my husband, Ty, when our son, Zion, was a year and a half old, when the one-to-one partnership between Zion and me burgeoned and my Zion adventure crystallized. The adventure with Zion had obviously already begun, eliciting extraordinarily life-changing events, but Ty’s passing was not only a huge jolt but also a marker of the beginning of something different, as death always is, even though everything was already different for me as a new mother, as well as different from the norm because Zion wasn’t “normal.” Several scary diagnoses from a variety of specialists were applied to him starting when he was nine months old. I had much to learn that being Zion’s mother taught me like nothing else could and he had a certain kind of life to live that apparently needed my certain kind of living to support. He and I… …him and me. Of course, the experience was meaningful to me but writing this book got started when Zion was around 16 years old because of the growing number of people who were so inspired by us to suggest I write a book and over time inspired me to share about us more widely.
That version of this book sat quietly in rough draft form for five years even though it was many 100s of pages, double-spaced. The writing and shaping had stopped because something vital was missing, hadn’t happened that needed to happen for me to know where I was going with it. I had no idea what would come about for it to become ultimately clear that, ‘Now, is the right time’ or if it ever really would. I wasn’t attached to it eventually becoming a book. All those pages just hung around in my computer unopened, even though occasional thoughts of and my love for it lived on. Having an appreciation for the creative process as an end in itself, I wasn’t bothered by the incompletion, simply curious about if or when…
That was before Zion died suddenly and unexpectedly two weeks after his 21st birthday.
Since then, the crescendo to Ty’s death, painful and hugely change-making as that was, seems more like a toot and the “Oooo” factor of my meeting Ty on the night of my father’s death has paled.
All this mention of deaths, but this book is SO not about people dying. It’s not about grief either, although it’ll come up, and not just the grief that comes after a beloved leaves his body but also the grief that can happen when the body is still there, and it’s your child’s one-year-old body and his brain and they aren’t functioning like most bodies and brains and you are told that he may never walk or talk or see.
An oft-posed question in the face of such things is “how does one recover from things like that?” but this book is also not about recovery. Don’t get me wrong, I respect that word and what it stands for in other contexts. It’s the “re-” part, which indicates an again-ness, that this book is not about. “REturn,” “REgain,” “REcover…” “Recover” typically means to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength: find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost): regain control of (oneself or of a physical or mental state): be well again.
None of those meanings apply here. No matter what has happened or is happening, I now see that nothing is ever not well. I also understand now that there is no such thing as losing control; that the control, or creative ability, that is inherent in each of us can never leave us or be taken away. Also, nothing is ever, really, lost. The truth is that everything—EVERYTHING—changes but is never lost. It’s an oft-used analogy, but could, would a butterfly recover to its previous form, its prior norm? Is the caterpillar lost? There is more expressed about this in the pages to come.
My prior way of being, thinking, feeling, living isn’t possible or even desirable anymore since Zion danced on from his body. There has been no nor will there be a returning for me and I will never “recover” and that’s not a bad or good thing, it just is. That is the underpinning of grief and it is the magnificence of change.
So this book is not about “re-” but about “trans-,“ meaning “across,” “beyond,” “through,” “changing thoroughly” because Zion, his life in that precious body and his leaving that body have thoroughly changed me and I continue to go beyond the me that came before. Transfiguration, Transformation, Transition and Transportation (like being transported by the flavors and scents of a sumptuous meal, shared over fascinating and uplifting conversation with beloveds, not so much like buses, trains and planes, although a lot of those have come into the picture, too).
This book is also about “en-” and “em-” meaning “to put in, into, within, inside” or “to become” as in “Embrace,” “Empower,” “Encourage,” “Embolden,” “Enjoy,” “Enamor,” “Enrich!” The meaning of those words has become clearer as my experience of them has been amplified to decibels not previously detectable to these human ears.
Zion’s unique life and magnetic, effervescent, joyful way of being and what he called forth from me to be and do, trans-ed, en-ed and em-ed me. Being his mother became a structure of such integrity, a focal point of such draw that it became the ground I didn’t know I needed in order to make significant tracks into feeling whole.
His “death” became a catalyst for what I learned with him about creating a joyful life to burst through me like a supernova, expanding my consciousness to a mind-boggling extent and catapulting me to another dimension where unconditional joy is as available and well-being as ubiquitous as air and smart phones. When Zion “died,” our connection changed drastically but didn’t go away and what he communicated to me of his experience beyond his body embellished, expanded, galvanized that earlier learning. In this dimension, I’m still here but in an exceptional frame of mind. I’ve always been seen as a happy person and felt that way most of the time, even when I was a child, and this is something else. This vantage point let’s me see how Zion’s and my partnership goes far beyond mother and son or even life partners; we are soul mates. I didn’t, couldn’t quite see that while he was living as my son, but the view from this dimension extends past physical relationships.
For a week after Zion’s big step into The Next, I followed my awe-opened eyes and staggeringly expanded heart around Los Angeles, where he had been living, making arrangements and making due while waiting for the coroner’s office to release his body. Life had just become more magnificent than I ever knew possible so even though I was bashed to bits on one hand, I was also in a state of bliss and wanting to be comforted by and to bring my new “eyes” to beauty and expression; so during that week, I wandered at The Getty Museum. Etched into a pathway of The Gardens and Waterscape there were these words by their designer, Robert Irwin, that stunned me with their intimate reflection of my heightened consciousness and I committed them to memory right there:
Ever present, never twice the same
Ever changing, never less than whole
This book is about how one came to know radical, unconditional joy and well-being, radical in the sense that no matter what happens or how I am feeling emotionally, the knowing is thorough, not uprooted by grief, shock or uncertainty. It’s about loving oneself and knowing oneself as loved, as in cherished, and supported no matter what. It’s about my learning what a soul mate actually is and does! It’s also about confidence in each next step as one walks in unconditional well-being, even amidst no idea what the steps following this next one will be. It is my hope that this book tran-es, en-es and em-es the reader, toward radically unconditional joy and well-being and wholeness as my Zion adventure did and still does for me.