Toward the end of summer 2012, before I left on an extended business trip overseas, my wife and I took our kids camping. I had a certain uneasiness about me. I couldn't put my finger on it. Though used to travelling, this time was different. I was going to be on the other side of the earth for a few weeks and my mind and heart worried I might not see my family again. I knew this time was precious. How precious, at the time, I knew not. In the end, I believe my feelings were magnified because I knew time was short for my son. This was our last camping trip as a family. 

We settled by a reservoir near Park City and the weather was beautiful. Whenever we went camping Mitch always wanted to sleep next to me – so as we pulled into the campground Mitch was the first to call dibs to one of my sides. I love him. 

The tent was set, the kids were playing and I had just started a campfire when I looked to a nearby road only to find my daughter pushing Mitch on his wheelchair as fast as she could. Mitch laughed and smiled as Laura-Ashley took him for a ride. Mitch loved the wind in his face – but he loved his sister even more. His right knee, bearing a nearly-healed wound from falling a few weeks prior, was a reminder that walking was difficult for him and running impossible. What’s more, it was a subtle reminder that being outside the safety of a wheelchair was becoming increasingly risky for him. There was safety in a wheelchair because he wouldn't trip or fall – but it was also limiting. Laura-Ashley, knowing he couldn't run like others, gave Mitch the next best thing. In fact, it was far better. 

I was struck by the beauty of this moment and also by the inward beauty of my daughter. I have always thought she was beautiful on the outside – but, to me, she is angelically beautiful on the inside. I admire her on so many levels. I once wrote of her: “My remarkable daughter: Kind to people who hurt her. Loving to others that hurt. Deeply artistic. Intelligent beyond her years. A fierce protector. A loyal helper. Astute observer. Simply beautiful. Beautifully complex.” She is all of that and so much more.

My sweet daughter had a very special relationship with Mitch. She was always so tender and kind to him – ever looking for ways to keep him safe and feeling loved. In my mind I can still hear her sweet tone every time she spoke with him. It was so unique. So loving. Her love to him was a warm blanket.

I’ll never forget her reaction the night Mitch passed away. It was about 4AM when I went to Laura-Ashley’s room to tell my daughter her little brother was gone. I gently placed my hand on her shoulder and woke her then whispered Mitch had passed away and tears immediately filled her eyes. Her little brother, whom she had given her heart and served with all her might, was gone. My heart, already broken from losing my son, broke even more to see this loving sister, my sweet daughter whom I also loved with all my heart, in great pain. I would have given my life to keep my son alive and save my daughter from hurt and sorrow. I wish death didn't have to hurt so much. But it does. And that kind of hurt is exquisite.

I will always remember this moment of love and service – how my daughter tried to give my son the next best thing but in reality gave him something far better. 

Like my son who wished to be like “regular kids” and run free of his handicap, I am sometimes tempted to want for a “regular life” [if there ever was one] free from hardship and sorrows. But like my daughter taught me, the things we gain from adapting to hardships are be far better than what we get when we run free of the hard things that teach us what matters most ... and that is something far better.