We had just arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital and sensed things were serious, that we were running out of time and we needed to hurry. Natalie began the process of admitting Mitch as I pushed his wheelchair to the waiting room. I sat across my little boy and started to talk to him. Over his shoulder I saw my sweet wife taking care of the paper work. Mitchell’s breaths were shallow and he grew pale as the minutes continued.
I couldn't help but notice the paper hearts attached to the wall behind the receptionist. I was reminded Valentine’s Day was approaching and I began to contemplate the many layers of love. I thought to myself how sweet and tender Mitchell was and how deeply I loved him. The moment my wife told the front desk Mitch had DMD and Cardiomyopathy and we suspected he was in heart failure, they immediately dispatched a nurse to check his vitals. Within less than a minute they rushed our son past everyone in line. Things were more serious than we thought.
As we sat in the examination room I recalled a saying I had seen throughout the hospital that said, “The Child First and Always.” That phrase always brought me some level of comfort but it was then I realized this was no slogan – that, in fact everyone at the hospital truly cared. As things escalated, doctors and nurses gave our son tremendous care and attention. It was clear my son wasn't a number on a patient file; he was a little boy with feelings and they knew it. Though medically broken, they treated him like a little boy who loved, played, wondered, and hoped. This wonderful medical staff gave us a dose of compassion, which is medicine for the soul.
I cannot help but feel intense emotions when I see this image … for I see my sweet wife fighting like a lion to save our boy. I see my tender son who was in so many ways my soul mate – only he was the greater soul. He was my teacher. Mitch, a gentle as anything I know and was slipping away. My little boy who was broken and would soon lose everything – if I could only go back to this moment and love him even more.
Perhaps one of the hardest things with grief is wanting one more. What I wouldn't give for one more hug, conversation, kiss, or cuddle. What I wouldn't give for a day. An hour. A minute. How I would spend that time differently. When I see this image I feel great pain because my son is gone and I want him with me. But I also feel an even greater love. It is a funny thing that love is both the source and solution to our pain. I am in pain because I love him. I am healing because I love him.
Mitchell’s Journey has taught me life is a story and we are the authors. Only we cannot pen what happens tomorrow, we can only write the story one step at a time. I am beginning to see my son came to earth broken so he could teach me. I am no teacher. I am just a student with a heavy backpack. But I am taking notes. I am listening and am learning.
Tonight my wife and I will take our kids to The Olive Garden in honor of our little boy. We will spend time as a family because family is what we love the most. We will laugh, we will smile, and we will remember.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but with each step I take I will write my story … and mine will be a story of love.