Zak's relationship with Naya

 Zak at age 14 wearing bands that signify his love for Naya.

Zak at age 14 wearing bands that signify his love for Naya.

It's Zak's birthday today. He's 15! He's growing up to be such an amazing you man. Smart, athletic, funny, loving and kind. In honor of Zak, I thought I'd share a little about Zak and Naya.

From the moment Naya was born, Zak was the big brother. He watched over her swing and crib, shared a room with her in Toronto, hugged her when she cried and played with her constantly. They played and fought like all kids do. But he also hugged her when she was down, and helped her when she needed it most. He gave her a hug and kiss literally every day of her life.

Zak fooled us as a kid. Hank and I thought he could do no wrong, and that Naya was the trouble maker. However, as they got older, there was a period when he tortured Naya and got her in trouble. If it weren't for Anna telling us how Zak quietly tortured Naya, we would have gone on oblivious to what he hid behind his innocent smile. 

Naya told the story of Zak's torturing to anyone who would listen. He stopped for a while when she got sick, but started up at times. He kept her feeling normal. She yelled at him, he annoyed her, and she rolled her eyes at how lazy he could be. Even when she was going through treatments, they would fight over the radio station in the car. Their fights were honestly like music to me. I wanted them to always continue. I knew when the fighting stopped, my music would stop. It meant she was gone from our lives.

Zak only cried a couple of times in front of me when Naya got sick. Early on when she got sick, and close to the time she died. He has been quietly strong for all of us. He knows when she is on our minds, and when I am lost in my thoughts about Naya, he brings me back to the real world and reminds me that life is joyful. 

There have been some statements he's said about Naya that will stick with me. 

  • 'Naya was stronger than I could have ever been'
  • 'She was determined'
  • 'Cancer did not beat Naya'
  • 'Treatments were not good enough to save my sister'
  • 'She was stronger than me'

Zak is strong too. And, Naya's memory impacts him everyday. He wears his "Fight Like a Girl" band daily in memory of Naya. Her pictures and things she made are in his room. In his own way, he quietly surrounds himself with his sister.

I'm so grateful for Zak. He's been so important to our family's joy, and now our healing. It's a lot for a kid to shoulder, but I think when he grows up, he'll realize he gave Hank and me the most important gift of our life. The gift of loving life. Happy birthday Zak.