THE VOLUME OF THINGS
During his final days Mitch became exceedingly weak. At night he would lie in his bed and watch his favorite shows, struggling to operate the apple remote. When it was time to go to bed he would ask me in a soft, almost breathless voice to keep the television on so his mind would not think of heavy things. As he drifted to sleep under the dim blue light of the TV, I would lay on the floor across the room watching his chest beat so hard it looked like a grown man was inside his body trying to punch his way out. My sweet son, who was tender beyond measure …. who only wanted to love and be loved, was being taken down by a mortal enemy that knew no mercy.
Sleep became a burden. Phone conversations a chore. Thoughtful visitors who knocked on our door to offer love and support became agonizing interruptions. Time was all we had left – and it was running out in a hurry. Each minute that passed was an opportunity never to be recovered. Time was coming to an end for my son … I felt it in my bones.
There were nights I wanted to wake Mitch from his sleep and spend time with him – as though he were about to embark on a long, dangerous journey from which I might never see him again. Indeed, he was embarking on the most dangerous of journeys … a journey that ends in certain death. I wanted to talk to him, hear his voice and feel his hugs and tell him again how much he was loved. But I could not bring myself to wake my son, for that would have been selfish .... he desperately needed rest and I, too, was in need of the same.
During this time my sweet wife would come to his room every two hours to administer medicine that would give our son the best shot at more time. She was exhausted beyond all description; sleep was a luxury, for there was a labor of love to be performed. I marveled at my wife as she served our son with grace, dignity and more love than I had ever seen. I remember finding her sobbing in our closet on multiple occasions with a mountain of tissues piled to what seemed the ceiling. Behind the mask of my wife’s beautiful and contagious smile was a heart that was broken and slipping into the dark abyss of pain and sorrow. Yet for our son, she hid her pain behind a smile so as not to frighten our boy.
Anguish became our tutor; and a faithful tutor she is.
Everything in the world seems easier now. Make no mistake, the pain of this loss is as tender as the day we lost him, perhaps even more so. But everything else seems less heavy.
Among the many lessons I have learned from my son, I have come to know that the loss of a child is like watching a horror show that knows no equal. And while you can’t change the channel, you can control the volume.
Since the loss of my son the volume of the world has been turned down significantly. Things that might have caused stress or an emotional reaction are almost muted to silence. A chaotic and fractured world that screams with all its sound and fury to capture my attention has now become static interference far in the distance.
Clarity has come. And it is that clarity I shall keep.