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.