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What My Brother David Taught Me

I know, I know,” says my little brother David, as he holds the imaginary microphone, his small hand fisted up to my mouth. When I hear that, I know I will be singing with him for a good while. His enjoyment of music is infectious. His sweet demeanor is contagious. David does this to request a song for me to sing. Which could be any songs from the 50s, 60s or 70s. He knows the lyrics and sings them without clarity, but with perfect rhythm and timing. He has always loved music. He is four years my junior. He has Down Syndrome. My life would be very different without him. We are the ninth and tenth children of a large family.

When I think of my childhood, I remember my brother being such a constant and consistent force for me in a large, busy family. I remember him rocking at night to help fall asleep. The whirring of his sit and spin. Being careful to step around him at the bottom of the stairs as he threw his stuffed Muppet toys up the staircase so they could roll back to him. The smell of his purple grape medicine that helped with his chronic colds. His Cream of Wheat every morning. His tongue thrust with every swallow. Holding hands to help him learn to walk, and seeing his fluffy hair fly once he mastered it. His rosy cheeks from chapped skin. The line on his hands. His heart-shaped feet.

This was my brother. Not “special,” just my sweet little brother. As a teenager, I loved being with him and playing with him too. We spent many days singing into broom handles and wooden spoons in the kitchen. You couldn’t, and still can’t, finish one song before he is inhaling to request the next. “I know, I know… Bobby McGee.” He loves music. He knows music. And it is a pleasure and honor to sing with him.

He has taught me great lessons about relationships. With our relationship he holds no agenda, no expectations, no manipulation, no judgment or fear of it, no grudges, there are no apologies to be made, just gratitude, allowing, authenticity, honest feelings and no hesitation in showing them. His real and true wisdom is profound. It is innate in him. He is truly gifted.

Mom said, “He has a hole in his heart.” When I heard that I decided to help you David, and to protect you and guard you. I grew up and saw there were so many others to guard, fix, help, and hold. I took on the mission to fix so many broken people and those with holes in their hearts. I spent many years defining and refining what they could be. To hold them up and believe in them, all the while fixing them.

Then one day I realized that I had been hearing murmurs of how a heart broken open is really the path of a life fully lived. That life breaks you open so your love can pour out and love can go in. Then I started to see that these amazing people had been teaching me all along, from the very beginning. You are naturally and originally heart-open. Your love was pouring out from birth.

I drew my hands and my efforts back and took a good look at those hearts. You are not broken. You do not need mending. You are original pure holes. A holey space. You call us to break open now. To pour our love out and receive love. You need no guarding. You are strong and pure and completely aware.

David, you were born wHOLEhearted and now I know.

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