“It has all of his ultrasound pics,” said Dee Dee Moore looking through a scrapbook of her precious baby boy Zion.
The year 2013 started with joyous news for Denetria "Dee Dee" Moore and her husband, Kenny.
“We prayed and we prayed for about 5 years to have a baby," she said.
Finally, a tiny, answered prayer was growing inside.
“We were so excited and had so much fun painting the nursery and setting it up,” Dee Dee said. “We didn't know what we were really going to have to face when he was born. We brought the car seat to the hospital.”
Once the baby was born, things immediately seemed off.
“I heard a faint cry,” remembered Dee Dee.
But she didn't get to see or hold little Zion for five hours.
“You push, all the pain and then here comes the joy. You get to hold your child, kiss him, doll over him … I didn't get any of that," she said.
Nurses rushed Zion to the neonatal intensive care unit.
“He had a breathing tube down his throat," his mother recalled.
Quickly joy turned to fear.
“They didn't think he was going to live through the night," she said.
Dee Dee couldn't process reality.
“It was just heart wrenching and heart breaking … all of these things coming at you all at once!" she said.
Doctors diagnosed Zion with skeletal dysplasia, which restricts bone growth and lung development. He made it through the night and the NICU became home for the next five months.
“We made the most of our good times," Dee Dee said.
Zion was a fighter. He even had his own Facebook page, Zion’s Saving Grace, to keep family and friends updated and to document his journey.
But his tiny body was deteriorating.
On May 17, 2014, Dee Dee knew they wouldn't be going home.
“He didn't look at me and I knew he wasn't there anymore. It was the worst time of my life," she said. "The scariest time of my life. You're not supposed to bury your child.”
She was lost for a long time.
“I remember saying I don't know what the other side of this is," she said.
Her faith was fragile and fading.
“I was so angry at God because I was like 'what did we do wrong?' We trusted you. We had faith.”
But she found comfort in the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United. She first sang it at Zion's funeral.
“The words of the song are, 'I will call upon your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise,' but it also talks about the mystery and the unknown and how we have to trust God when don't feel or see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dee Dee explained.
And, ironically, Dee Dee found her smile again during worship.
“I just remember thinking, 'Wow, I can do this,'" she said.
Together with Kenny, her husband of 10 years this May.
“When he was weaker, I was a little bit stronger. When I was weaker he was a little bit stronger," Dee Dee said.
Now, she’s finding peace in precious keepsakes and new beginnings.
In the last year, Dee Dee’s given her pain purpose. She’s recorded and released her version of “Oceans.”
She's also written a book, "Zion's Saving Grace."
It's a tribute to her baby boy, but also a resource for parents in similar situations, especially families in the NICU.
“I'm just a mom who wanted to get her baby's story out to help somebody else," Dee Dee said.
Dee Dee will use proceeds from the book and song to establish Zion's Grace Foundation to support other families in the NICU.
Both are available at her website zionsgrace.org.
Her version of "Oceans" is also available on iTunes, Spotify and other music streaming sites.