I thought I had grown accustom to the emotional whiplash that is felt when someone you love is on hospice. One moment you think the nightmare has ended and the next you are reminded it is only just beginning. So, as I sat with my tender son who leaned into my arm, I wondered quietly if the doctors had it all wrong … that perhaps we dodged a bullet. Suddenly my son moved and I saw the cables coming from his arm … cables that reminded me it wasn't a dream, but that I was living my worst nightmare. I didn't realize how nightmarish grief would soon become.

Baby Marlie, ever the faithful comforter, sat patiently and lovingly on Mitchell’s lap. She was always quick to kiss his little fingers ever so softly, which Mitchell loved so. Though my heart sank, I realized I was in the presence of two tender beings who were meant to be together – even if only in passing. One sick little boy about to die and travel to that place beyond the hills, far from mortal view; and a newborn puppy who had just arrived on a mission of mercy and comfort, a little friend who would stay behind after Mitch left us to comfort our hearts weary with grief. 

These two little ones were unaware they were passing each other in opposite directions, but for a moment they gave each other comfort, and I thank God for that. 

Though I have seen many tender mercies along Mitchell’s Journey, evidence of God’s love and care … a wondrous life filled with little lifts here and there … I cannot deny the immensity of the struggle. As we saw death approaching I knew it would be hard but I scarcely understood how hard it would actually be.

I remember, while in the depths of sorrow, kneeling at my bed in tears praying to God to free us from the struggle. I prayed mightily unto my Father and my words stretched far into the heavens begging for my son to be spared, and if not, that my son’s passing would be quick, if he were to suffer. I even begged God that I could take my son’s place – for I would gladly lay down my life so my little boy could live. Though the specifics of my prayers were not answered in the way I asked for them to be answered, I know my Father heard the intent of my heart and I know He felt after me and had compassion. I have come to understand His answers to my desperate pleas were wiser than anything my mortal mind could conjure up. Sometimes we must be reminded that He is God and we are not – and we must put our trust in that.

Ironically, my son’s death, as impossibly painful as it has been, has breathed new life into my soul. I have a sobriety about … everything; and losing Mitch has given me a deeper perspective on the purpose of life that I didn't have in my earlier years. Oh, I had book knowledge, but now I have experiential knowledge … and there’s a difference. Though I wish so badly to trade those lessons back for my son … I cannot have Mitch back – not in the way I want him. I pray that I don’t waste the life lessons my son has taught me at so high a price. For all that happens in this mortal place has a divine purpose in the grand scheme of heavenscape.

As I contemplate the struggle of grief and sorrow, of death and sickness and everything that hurts, I am reminded of the circumstances of a baby chick about to hatch: they must break through their shell on their own. Any attempt to chip away the shell for them, in an attempt to make their life easier, is not only counterproductive but often fatal. The very act of their struggle strengthens them so they can survive on the outside. In fact, the time it takes to break free is also vital for their bodies to adjust to their new life. Any effort on our part to hasten the hardship will rob them of their struggle, the struggle designed to make them stronger, and they often die.

Like those baby chicks who struggle to break through, I know at some point I will come out on the other side of this stronger. While I might be tempted to pray to God for an easy way out … that He might chip away the shell of hardship and sorrow and hasten the struggle, I know better. Instead I pray that He gives me strength equal to the task - for I know it is in the struggle we are made stronger. But what a struggle it is.

I am a weary traveler on a broken road. I don’t feel strong - in fact, I'm weaker than weak. I often collapse in sorrow and grief, and when I’m alone, I quietly weep. But like those baby chicks that are destined for a life on the other side of struggle, I will fight on. God willing, I will fight on.