This [center] photo was taken during Mitchell’s Make-A-Wish trip. The one thing he really wanted to do, but couldn't, was have a baby panda cuddle with him. Even though he couldn't cuddle with pandas Mitch was having the time of his life.
As the day had drawn to a close, after spending time at Disneyworld, we were walking to our rental car and Mitch stopped his scooter and started to run through fresh puddles just left by an early-evening shower. Mitch loved the theme parks, but he loved the simple things of life even more … like making a fort out of a cardboard box, splashing in puddles and running free. I loved the smile on his face this day.
Without realizing it, as they lose their ability to walk, children with DMD begin to modify their body movements to keep them balanced. The weaker they become the more pronounced their contortions. Mitch, as he ran to splash in puddles used his arms to keep him from losing his balance. I remember watching Mitch on his Make-A-Wish trip encounter bursts of energy and he would run short distances with an awkward gait. Mitch loved to run – and he wished so badly he could be like “regular kids.” Mitch was broken and different than other children. But he was mine. And I loved him. I still love him.
None of us could have supposed that within a few short years my sweet little son would be gone. And despite what my head knows, still my heart frantically runs to and fro in search of my boy.
Just after my father passed away I remember speaking with my Stake President (a leader in my church) about the loss of my father and the next phase of my life. I was hurting, alone and I was scared. I was about to turn 19 and had recently moved to Edmonton, Alberta to live with my father – who was very much alone. This discerning leader lovingly looked me in the eye and cautioned me to not run “from” my hardship, but run “to” what was next.
I always appreciated his deep wisdom and have never forgotten his timeless council. So, on that day, with tears in my eyes by the loss of my dad, I made a personal commitment to always face hard things and never run from them. What’s more, I promised myself I would run with purpose to the future.
Run to, not from. There is a difference in how we run … and that difference is profound.
As many of you know the original purpose of this Facebook page was to keep family and friends aware of Mitch and his condition. It was supposed to be a quiet place of sharing – and I assumed it would be invisible from the world, just like my family was. My hope was that Mitch would find a little comfort that a handful of people loved and followed him and occasionally cheered him on. But as he grew weaker and sicker more and more people came running to love him; so many of you were so good to him, and my family. Thank you. I was brought to my knees with gratitude every single day. I still am.
Over the last 10 months people from all across the world have done things in honor of Mitch and other boys they know and love who also have Muscular Dystrophy. They did what they could to raise money for PPMD, for research and raise awareness of my son’s killer. Here are a handful of people who ran because my son couldn't. They ran with dignity and purpose and I love each of them as though they were family.
These compassionate men and women ran with purpose - and so shall I.
And on that day I see my son in that place beyond the hills, I will run to him. I will run as fast as my legs will take me.