Each year around the time that the March for Life unfolds in Washington, my wife Carol and I have a special reminder of God’s gift of life, as we celebrate our son Matthew’s birthday. On Jan. 20, two days after this year’s march, Matt turns 12, and the next day, we will have our own march for life in our house, as Matt and about eight of his buddies will be running around during his birthday party, while we keep Jackson, our spirited Jack Russell terrier, at bay. Matt’s collegiate sister Anna, now 22 and in her last semester of nursing school, will be unable to attend, but his older brother Joe, now 24 and in the working world in downtown Washington, will join the birthday celebration.
When Matt was born in January 2007, I wrote a column for the Catholic Standard titled, “Baby on Board,” which I thought would be fun to revisit at this time of the March for Life. Here are some excerpts:
“This year marked my most memorable March for Life, but I didn’t make it to the Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center or the march itself along Constitution Avenue from the National Mall to Capitol Hill. On Jan. 22, 2007, my wife Carol and I brought our baby son Matthew home from the hospital and carried him in our front door for the first time at just about the same hour that the march was beginning in downtown Washington.
“…On Jan. 20, we checked into the hospital at 3 a.m., and Matthew Wesley Zimmermann was born about 10 hours later, weighing 7 pounds and 8 ounces.
“…In the delivery room, I sang Matt his first lullaby, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’
“After Matt was born, I sent an e-mail to some friends, noting that our baby might be musically inclined, since he shares Jan. 20 as a birthday with blues guitarist Leadbelly, country singer and yodeler Slim Whitman, KISS guitarist Paul Stanley and rapper Snoop Dogg. Or maybe he will be an astronaut like Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, or a space explorer like DeForest Kelley, Dr. McCoy on TV’s ‘Star Trek,’ both of whom were also born on Jan. 20.
“Actually, Matt has been sleeping most of his first two days, so it’s hard to tell who he looks like, much less what his future career plans might be.
“…Looking at our little son these past two days has reminded me of what really matters in life. So often we’re distracted by daily anxieties or material things, and we fail to see God’s grace right before us.
“This summer at a Catholic gift shop, I bought a dictionary of patron saints’ names to help us pick out a name for our child, but early on we decided on Matthew if our baby turned out to be a boy. Matthew is a good name for a Washington baby, since St. Matthew is the patron saint of government workers and is the name of the Catholic cathedral in the nation’s capital. It’s a name I’ve always liked, since I was a little boy and played with my cousin Matt.
“Today I picked up the saints dictionary and looked up Matthew, and told my family that in Hebrew the name Matthew means, “The Gift of the Lord.”
“‘That’s right,’ our 10-year-old daughter Anna said, before going to bed in her room, next to her baby brother’s new room.”
As a postscript, our son Matt now is a sixth grader in our neighborhood middle school, and is a budding cartoonist and writer.
The housekeeper at my workplace, who is an immigrant from Guatemala, also has a son named Matthew, who is in the fifth grade at a nearby Catholic elementary school. The other day I saw him in our cafeteria, patiently waiting for his mom to complete her work shift after his school day had ended.
I said “hi” to this other Matthew and asked him if he knew what his name meant. I told him that Matthew means “gift from God.”
I smiled and added, “Remember, you’re a gift from God!”
In a gentle voice, that Matthew responded, “We all are!”