A Little Boy, Taken Too Soon, Inspires His Grandfather to be Amazing

The Batman Way



Courtesy The Zaadii Foundation

My grandson Zaadii was a wonderful, mischievous, adventurous and very fine fellow. He was fearless and courageous.

When we took him to his first swim lesson, he jumped into the water and sank like a stone. The teacher pulled him up, and Zaadii shook his head and went right back, again and again.

When it snowed, he went sledding. He wouldn’t let his father hold him and he sped downhill solo, recklessly, and was angry at the sun for setting and ending his day.

He was Batman. And we all loved him with all of our hearts. For days after his costume arrived the week before Halloween, Zaadii would take it off only under great pressure — and he was wearing it as he held his mother’s hand walking across the street that awful Sunday.

That was Zaadii living life to the fullest.

He never knew the dreary, dull disappointments of paying bills, or not getting a promotion or losing at love.

His life was one constant adventure and exploration bathed in the love of the two finest parents and the finest sister a boy could have.

His father, Francis, said it best: He had a perfect life.

He didn’t know pain. The doctors tell us the impact immediately rendered him unconscious and he never suffered. It is for those of us who remain to suffer and feel the pain. And because he was loved so much, our pain is immense.

My daughter and my beloved son-in-law will survive because of the boundless love of their wonderful family and friends. When Rachel was getting married, I didn’t want her to go so far away. But over 20 years, I have come to admire and cherish her many friends and to love very deeply the wonderful Navajo family her husband shares with her.

The spiritual side of the Navajo people reminds me of the Buddhists I met in Tibet and Bhutan. Some Buddhists believe a person’s spirit lingers, for just a while, at the spot where he was taken before it goes on.

When I got to Flagstaff, Arizona, after traveling through the night and the day, I asked Zaadii’s sister, Camille, to take me to where Zaadii was killed. She was very brave and did so.

After 40 years of seeing car wrecks, I knew what had happened as soon as I saw the place. There was nothing Rachel could have done differently — she was crossing at a crosswalk, holding her children’s hands, and because of a driver’s inexcusable neglect and inattention, Rachel and her daughter were struck and Zaadii was taken. It is so unfair.

There were flowers and wreaths placed at the base of a tree near where the tragedy occurred. But I knew that wasn’t where the impact had taken place. I went to the edge of the crosswalk and kneeled down. This was where he was taken.

I tried to be very still. The snow was falling on my head. I reached out my hands, and I want to believe some of Zaadii’s spirit came to me. I think Zaadii’s spirit is in his parents’ hearts now. And if you reach out to them, I believe Zaadii will be in your heart, too. Because he isn’t gone; he is in our hearts. Fearless, full of wonder.

I can see him jumping to his at-the-ready stance now. I am Batman.

Who is Batman?

First, he fights for the right, against long odds.

Second, he is resourceful and clever. When it seems he is beaten and there is no hope, he finds a way to escape and continue.

He is a good teacher and mentor to his apprentice and protégé.

But finally and most important, when the chips are down, and all appears lost and he is called, he comes. He does not always win, because life is unfair, but he comes and fights for the right.

My grandson taught me something special: I want to be Batman, too. 

We let his spirit return to the sacred peaks in the ancient Navajo way. But Zaadii did one last amazing thing. He taught us that the love of a family is more important than anything else. As we dealt with this terrible loss, we learned to love each other again and to put aside whatever kept us from each other and to be family again.

That is an amazing thing. Only Batman could do it. But he is Batman — and amazing.


Zaadii Tso was three years old when he died in February 2015. Cox’s essay is taken from the eulogy he gave at his grandson’s funeral. 

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