My wife took this photo of Mitch and me at his Make-A-Wish trip in Florida a few years ago. I loved carrying my son and I loved the feeling of his little arms around my neck. I miss that. I miss everything about him. As Mitch grew so did the burden of his care – but those burdens were an easy price to pay for the gift he was to us.
Moments prior to this photo Mitch had tripped and fallen to the ground. (see: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=629906097039055&set=pb.192859897410346.-2207520000.1388340960.&type=3&theater)
DMD, a progressive muscle wasting disease, made walking increasingly difficult for our son. While boys are young and still able to walk they begin to fall easily – and falling becomes more and more frequent until they cannot walk at all. And when they fall, they fall hard because they do not have the strength or coordination to break their fall. Gravity and ground make for unfriendly opponents to these children. The moment Mitch fell on the curb his sister came rushing to help him and I remember getting teary eyed when I took that photo of her lifting him up. I had tears of sorrow for my boy who was innocent and good yet was required to carry a heavy, fatal burden; I also shed tears of gratitude for my daughter who was also innocent and good and did all she could to love and protect her brother.
I ran to Mitch and said “I’ll carry you” and in that moment he lifted his little arms toward me. My heart swelled. I held him tight as if to hug him as we walked a short distance to our car. I kissed his cheek and whispered to him. I wanted Mitch to know I would always carry him – for as long as I could – and so would his mommy. My wife took my camera so I could hold Mitch and she took this photo. I didn't realize the expression on his face at the time and I am so grateful to have it now.
There are so many ways to carry each other. Sometimes we must do it physically – but more often we can carry each other in other ways that are just as helpful. I believe one of the reasons we are born with weaknesses is not only that we might be humble and [with God’s help] turn those weaknesses into strengths, but that we might learn to set aside our own pride or self-interests and serve others who may not have the same weaknesses we possess. The economy of lifting others and carrying them with love and concern pays heavenly dividends if we jump in and do what we can.
I have never served someone with love and concern and thought to myself afterward, “I wish I didn't do that” or “that was a dumb thing to do.” To the contrary, every time I tried to lift another I felt a lift within me, too. There exists a profound doctrine that teaches that we not only grow grace by grace (step by step) but also grace for grace (we get what we give others). And when we carry each other the best we can we get what we give… and we grow.
Losing my son has broken my legs and my heart and every bone in my body. As a result, my steps have felt smaller, more tender and timid. But as my heart and bones are healing my footing is becoming more secure and more sure. I have spent my life trying to carry my son and now that he is gone, I get the sense he is now carrying me … as I am now the broken one.