THE TROUBLE WITH TIME
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The look of panic on my sweet wife’s face is forever etched into my mind. The time we feared most had come. Mitchell’s urine bore evidence of catastrophic organ failure, his vitals were on a steady decline and we didn’t know if we had days, hours or minutes left with our son.

The drugs we administered to Mitch were both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because they kept him from suffering from the pain of organ failure and a curse because they kept his mind foggy and distant. We were blessed with the greatest hospice nurse to ever walk this earth. She was exactly what we needed during this dark time … a tender mercy for which I will thank Heaven the remainder of my days. She was there to guide and council us every step of the way – but because she didn’t live with us, we were left to face the majority of our time alone with our boy. That scared us.

Prior to hospice, all we knew was children’s Tylenol and sunscreen … then suddenly we were administering morphine and other powerful drugs to our child. All we wanted was to go back to the days of macaroni and cheese and band-aids, scraped knees, and children’s books. But that was not our lot in life.

I’ll never forget our first encounter with our hospice nurse. She was kind, compassionate, strong, and direct. In a way, most unexpected, she was soothing to Natalie and me … parents who felt very much like children, fragile and frightened. This hospice nurse reminded us of what our DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form meant. She told us that if Mitch was is in trouble that we were not to call the ambulance, perform CPR, or any procedure that would prevent death. Now that he was home on hospice, her job was to help our son’s transition of death happen comfortably. After this good nurse left that first day, I remember going to my bedroom, closing the door and falling to my knees. I wept and wept. I prayed as I have never prayed before. “Take me!” I plead with my Father, “Please, take me instead. I would endure any suffering if it spared my son.”


After a period of deep, tearful grief, I found myself back on my feet again. With feeble knees, I tried to bear the burdens of my family on my shoulders – but I soon realized I could not take away my family’s suffering. I could only walk with them and love them and do all I could to support them. Though I wished to carry it all, I realized that was not the purpose of life and that we must all experience joys and sorrows on our own if our souls are to grow truly.

Though I tried to be strong for my family, this good woman, my dear wife, was the strongest among us. I will always honor her for her strength and wisdom during this impossible time. I stood then, and continue to stand today, deep in her shadow.

So, there we sat on the edge of the abyss, our son hanging by a pebble and slipping into the darkness. I sat on the edge of his bed in tears, wondering how I could have been a better husband and father. I made plenty of mistakes, and those mistakes weighed on my soul for a season. I wasn’t so upset with the occasions I might have been more patient with my children – for I knew we all make those mistakes, and I always made things right with my kids. Instead, I began to contemplate the time I wasted pursuing lesser, trivial things. I wanted to go back in time and invest that squandered time into my family. It wasn’t a lot – but enough to hurt. Enough to cause a little regret.

The trouble with time is we always seem to think we’ll have enough of it. I don't know why we're built that way ... that mostly in times of trouble when we stand to lose everything, do we re-discover everything that really matters.

JOURNALS: AN UNEXPECTED TIME MACHINE*
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I’m sitting quietly under the canopy of night reading my journals. These worn out books cover over 30 years of my life: stories of struggle, despair, breakthroughs and spiritual awakenings. The sound of crickets makes this moment even more nostalgic.

I have over 200 new #mitchellsjourney stories I’ll begin to publish soon. But tonight, I wanted to look further back in time.

In an earlier essay, I made reference to a dream I had that was a foreshadowing of my journey with Mitch. I’ve had two of them, years apart, in fact. They weren’t ordinary dreams - they seemed to come from a much deeper place. It’s interesting to read the details of those dreams in my own handwriting; a kind of forewarning from so many years ago.

I don’t pretend to know what’s really happening in this life, I only know we’re not alone and that something divine walks before us, beside us, and guides our ways ... most often sight unseen. Only in retrospect do things make the most sense, it seems. All the pain, injustice, joy and opportunity I’ve ever known are deeply interconnected.

When I take the time to recognize and document the many points of light in my life, I discover a kind of new, fresh courage when I step into the unknown. Life can be bewildering and hard at times, but it is also sweet and good.

ON SHARING HEARTS*
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We were blessed to meet a long-time reader of #mitchellsjourney over the weekend. @tandon23 and her beautiful family are from Melbourne, Australia. She dropped one of her sons off at college in southern California and then made the long drive to Salt Lake City just so she could see Mitchell’s place of rest and say hello to us.

We were humbled by her gesture of love and outreach, but worried we weren’t worth the fuss of such a long journey. We’re just a regular family trying to sort life out, after all. We were grateful to meet her in person, though, because over the years, I recognized her thoughtful comments and words of compassion. So when she said she was coming to Utah, I was excited to finally greet a friend we hadn’t met, yet.

Natalie loved getting to know her, too. She was especially humbled when Tan handed her a stuffed Kangaroo with a little name tag bearing @mi_tchel__ ’s proper spelling. That was was such a thoughtful act of kindness.

So, after a little breakfast and a visit at the cemetery, we asked them to come to our home later that evening for a BBQ. They met Marlie, Mitchell’s (not-so-little-anymore) dog, tiny Bear (Natalie’s pup), and Ethan. It was a beautiful, healing day.

I was deeply moved and reminded how much our lives are made richer when we share our hearts; both in the giving and the receiving. As far as I can tell, somewhere in the sharing of our hearts is the healing we all seek. @ Herriman City Cemetery

 
DOUBLE WIN’S

This was Mitchell’s last time at his grandmothers – the place, other than home, he loved to be above all others. I’m not sure if it was the chocolate cake from Costco she would get especially for him, or the small 4-wheelers he could ride into the woods, or if it was the escape from life as he knew it, maybe it was the unbridled love he received – but whatever it was, he wanted to be there. 

As we stood at the door and said goodbye my mother reached behind Mitch, who is as shy as he is sweet, and kissed his cheek. I could tell Mitch felt so good inside. I think everybody deserves to feel good inside. 

I captured this tender moment with my phone. As we left her place there was a certain heaviness in my heart. I didn’t know where my feelings were coming from – I just sensed something was happening. Something significant. As we drove away I struggled to swallow the lump in my throat. Had I known this was his last trip there, I would have begged to stay another day or two. My mother said after we left she just sat on the floor and wept. Perhaps her soul, not knowing the end was coming, was being prepared for this loss.

It was the last few days of November and the Christmas holidays were just around the corner. I could tell Mitch was excited to see what Santa would bring –but he was even more excited about the gifts he was going to give everyone else. Mitch always gave to others freely. I think deep inside he felt no matter how much he gave, he always got more in return. 

Even when Mitch was home on hospice, he spent his hard-saved money on a collection of Warheads (very sour candy) and gave them away. I remember sitting with him on the edge of his bed as he separated the flavors. He softly pointed to the blue raspberry ones and said almost in a whisper, struggling to breathe, “These ones are rare. They’re my favorite.” He then grabbed my hand and put the precious 3 candies in my palm, then closed my fingers and pushed my hand back to me. I said to him, “Oh, no Mitchie, these are yours. You keep them because I know you love them.” As I reached to give them back he pushed my hand back to me with a gentle smile and said, “No, you keep them. And I want you to eat one right now.” My heart sank a little because I wanted him to have his favorite treats, but I realized in that moment that letting Mitch give was the gift he really wanted. 

So, I opened one quickly and put it in my mouth. Mitch began to smile and giggle as I puckered and writhed over the intense sour candy that was destroying my taste buds. Mitch finally burst out in laughter as he saw me cry out “I can’t take it!” For Mitch, giving was a win to him. And seeing me almost gag over the super-sour candy was a second win that paid dividends of giggles and laughter.

I still have those other two candies in a special box that contains treasures from Mitch. 

Mitch reminds me daily what it means to win. Sometimes life gives us double-wins when everything turns out as planned. Other times we do our best and appear to fail; but if we are honest and do our best we have already won, regardless of the outcome. What is winning, really? It is doing the right thing – no matter the cost. Mitch always did the right thing. And more often than not, he won twice.

With all his double-wins, my little boy lost his battle with life … yet he won his soul by the way he lived it. And, by the grace of God, while I stumble and fall a million times as I chase after my son, I hope to hold him once more. I hope to look into his innocent eyes and thank him for helping me understand to do good and be good is what it means to truly win.