COUNTING THE COST
It was Monday, February 25th and Mitch asked me to take him to the store. His strength was dwindling quickly and had I known he would die that Friday evening I would have begged him away from every distraction, pleaded with him not to sleep, and to not do anything that would steal time and attention from each other. Even though I did my best to love him and be in the moment, I would have done more. I don’t know how, but my heart tells me I would have done more. I suppose that is part of grief … learning to cope with wanting more.
Mitch always clung to my arm while I drove. If we were traveling as a family he would sit in the back seat on the passenger side so I could reach behind and hold his hand while driving. And when it was just he and I together, Mitch would sit in the front and hold my hand and cling to my arm. I loved how affectionate he was. Mitch melted my heart. And perhaps that is why my heart is broken so …
I miss driving with my son. To this day I long to reach over and hold his hand; in fact, sometimes while driving home from work [almost without realizing it] I find myself reaching toward the passenger seat and imagining Mitch sitting beside me once again holding my arm. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I feel peace. But I always, always long for my son.
So, on this wintry morning as Mitch and I were headed to the store, I remember Natalie kneeling to the floor and looking Mitch in the eye before we left and saying, “Mitch, I know you like to save your money, but just this time, I want you to splurge. There are other times to save. But right now, I want you to enjoy what you have worked so hard to save.” Mitch smiled softly and said “Okay, Mom.” Natalie knew this would be his last trip to the store.
I couldn't believe all that was happening. There, in my passenger seat, was my weary son dreaming of tomorrow but loving his moment with me. He was on borrowed time – and I think he began to sense it. Mitch asked if he could wear my hat, which I softly placed on his head. I am glad he did because the visor kept him from seeing the waterfall of tears that ran down my face and neck. I quietly took my iPhone and photographed his face and this was his expression. I don’t know what he was thinking at this moment – but this photo haunts me.
Little Mitch had been saving his money for quite some time. As we drove to the store Mitch didn't say much; he just told me he wanted to buy a new wallet, some Nerf guns for himself and his friends, and to see what other neat things were on the shelf.
I always chuckled at Mitchell’s shopping pattern; for as long as I can remember he would load up his scooter or arms or shopping cart with the things he wanted to buy. His boyish appetite for toys was as big as his imagination. But, after 15 minutes of serious deliberation, and after having counted the cost, he would put everything back. Mitch was always more content to leave with nothing but his hard-earned money. He never asked to borrow money, either. Mitch always lived within his means and understood the value of a dollar. Too many people these days confuse the spoils of debt with wealth. My mother once told me that “foolish people pay interest, wise people earn it.” Mitch, it seemed, had a natural wisdom about choice and accountability that is often lost, even in adults.
Mitch always counted the cost of things; whether with money, time or his choices, he was a wise steward over what was his. Mitch was strictly obedient because he never wanted to pay the consequence of poor choices. And because he counted the cost and paid the price, he earned our implicit trust. Mitch always weighed the cost of procrastination; on Saturday mornings while all of his able-bodied siblings were rolling on the floor moaning over their chores, Mitch was quietly getting his chores done with a smile. (And I have pictures to prove it) By the time our other kids were just getting started with their chores, Mitch was long done with his and allowed to play. Mitch knew the value of time and never spent it wasting or whining – just doing. And because he counted the cost and paid the price, he was able to play 3 to 4 times longer than his siblings.
It is fascinating to see what children can teach us, if we only set aside our pride and listen with our hearts. It is no wonder it said of them “of such is the kingdom of heaven”. They are innocent and good … they are noble, worthy and pure. Certainly we have much to teach our children, but they, at times, have so much more to teach us.
I am so thankful for my son who taught me to count the cost of everything. To this day, and forever, I will count the cost of my words, my actions, and thoughts; knowing that I will invariably pay the price for them – good or bad. I hope to have the wisdom of my son … to always count the cost and pay the price … and in so doing live a better life.