We decided to take our kids up Big Cottonwood Canyon (near Park City, Utah) before the snow came. 

The leaves had fallen and covered the ground like crunchy wrapping paper on Christmas morning. Nature’s blush was fading fast and all the world was about to fall into a wintry slumber. Because the ground hadn’t frozen yet, you could smell the dirt, pine and leaves like a sweet potpourri made by the loving hands of Mother Nature. 

Mitch loved smells and breathed in deeply with his nose and said, “Dad, doesn't it smell good outside?” I smiled softly at him and said, “Yes, son, isn't earth awesome?” He smiled back at me then a little while later took another big whiff of Mother Nature’s perfume. I couldn't help but notice how Mitch kept stopping to smell the air again and again. It was almost as though, without knowing it, deep down he knew this was his last chance to drink the season in. 

This was his last outdoor adventure before it snowed. 

We were high in the mountains, parked next to a natural marshland. Wooden walkways carved a path through some of the marsh, then to a dirt trail that circled a small lake. Mitch loved going here because he could see ducks, fish and all manner of wildlife. At one point Ethan and Mitch raced ahead to explore like young boys love to do. I took this photo of them peering over the edge of the walkway at some fish swimming near the surface in hopes of something to eat before the water froze. 

Because DMD had weakened his muscles, Mitch couldn't walk long distances and used a scooter to get around. Ethan was always careful to make sure he never left Mitch behind. That simple gesture to wait for those who struggle to keep up; that is a measure of love and charity in my book. When I saw this quiet, unrehearsed act of love I wondered how often I had left others behind: others that could have used loving encouragement, a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. There before me were two young boys unaware of the lesson they just taught me. They were just simply being young. They were just being good.

Mitch seemed to always care for others, too, and was mindful of those left behind. One Sunday, as the kids were getting ready for church Natalie noticed an extra set of scriptures in Mitchell’s bag. When asked about it Mitch said, “Oh, mom, those are for Luke because he sometimes forgets to bring his own.” Little Mitch didn't want his friend to be left behind or feel left out; he was naturally his brother’s keeper. When Natalie first told me that story I wept tears of love and gratitude. Not all tears are sad … some come from another place that make your heart feel glad.

I learned something this day I will not soon forget … 

A measure of love is looking back to see who you can help. It is the deepest form of charity because it requires you to forget yourself. The funny thing about what it means to love and lift another, you never lose ground when you reach down to help a sister or a brother. In a world saturated with fear and hate we ought not throw sharp stones, but rather find those who are heavy hearted and seek to mend their bones. A strange thing indeed, the paradox of love … you cannot give it freely and not feel closer to heaven above. Looking back and helping others, that is a measure of love.

Mitch has gone far beyond … where mortal eyes can’t see. Though I stumble forward, trembling with grief and feeble knees, I sense somehow that he is helping me. Perhaps one day, when all is said and done, we'll see there was an unseen army helping us, when we felt like only one.

After all, isn't that how things in heaven are done? Its not so much about the 99, but rather looking back to find the one. 

A beautiful measure of love, if I ever heard one.