A few years ago our extended family went on a group vacation. It was a time of great excitement as distant cousins reunited and family bonds strengthened. Mitchell always felt awkward and shy around others because his muscles were weak and he didn't have the strength to do what everyone else could. He often sat in the background as a spectator – never wanting to impose his needs or wants on others – even though he would have done anything to be recognized and to participate. More often than I want to remember I observed people look over him as if he were invisible. It is for this very reason this photo means so much to me.
While at the airport an uncle reached down to invisible Mitch and placed him on his shoulders. Together they flew down the concourse … arms open and soaring like a bird. His uncle didn't care that other adults, strangers to him, could see and hear them. He didn't pretend to be so important or busy with adult things that he couldn't break decorum and be bothered with a child. Only loved mattered. And that is what he gave Mitch, in abundance. Mitchie smiled and laughed and my heart exploded into a million pieces of love and appreciation. For a moment, Mitchell was free … he was powerful. For a moment Mitchell felt like a superhero. As I sat back and watched this great man love my boy I shed tears of gratitude.
Two [almost invisible] years later our little boy would die. And all that Mitch hoped to do and become died with him.
As his father I wanted so badly to put my superhero cape on and save my son. After all, he thought I was a superhero ... but I was only mortal and I agonized that I couldn't save my little boy. As it turned out, my little son was a superhero to me.
This summer we will see a lineup of long-awaited superhero movies. Each story selling the idea superhuman strength, epic battles, men (and women) dripping of brawn and testosterone are heroes. But the real heroes of life aren't laden with technology or smothered in dirt from far-off fields. Real heroes are almost invisible to the eye and most often discerned by the heart. They are among us living the lives of ordinary people. They are the ones who take the time to love and serve others: to give a stranger a friendly smile or a compliment, a compassionate ear, or some anonymous act of service. They are people who love and give freely with no thought of remuneration … whose only payment is the internal satisfaction they did good by being good.
Mitchell’s Journey has revealed many superheroes that were hiding in plain sight – all across the world. Many of you are superheroes to my son (and my family) because you reached out and loved him … and he felt your love and concern when the world became very dark and very lonely. It’s one thing to love someone you know; but to love a stranger, that’s divine.
In every way that matters my little son … who hardly had the muscle strength to stretch out his arms … is my superhero. Despite his failing body he kept fighting with a smile on his face, hope in his heart and love in his soul.
Mitchell taught me that to be a superhero has nothing to do with physical strength at all – but everything to do with heart. While Mitchell lost his mortal battle, he has won the battle of the soul.
Originally Posted April 22, 2013
(Just a few months after Mitch passed away)