Upon learning of Mitchell’s diagnosis in 2005 we sold our home and began building one that would better accommodate his growing muscle weakness. Everything was happening so fast and the proverbial stars aligned in more ways than 100. However much we thought we were in control of our lives, as I look back on those years I can see with great clarity now a path was being cleared for Mitchell’s journey and my family that went far beyond my power to control. Providence was at work.
During construction we lived in an apartment for about a year and a half. Our place was small and cramped and most of what we owned (the furniture and treasured things we worked so hard to buy as young, broke newlyweds) was packed deep in a storage facility. None of that stuff mattered – we went back to the basics, back to the essentials.
There is something cleansing about less.
Life was suddenly simpler. All we had were our children – and they were so young and little; Wyatt was only weeks away from being born.
Our kids had bundled up and went outside to play in the fresh snow between apartment buildings. Mitch, who was wearing his mother’s white winter hat, was tiny but determined to keep up with his older brother and sister. Ethan and Laura-Ashley were both so kind to include him in their snowy adventures.
I loved watching Mitch stand there in his little snow pants, wearing his favorite Spiderman gloves and his mother’s hat – which hat made him look even cuter. My heart swelled as I saw my older kids gladly include their baby brother in building a snow fort. There was no material possession in storage or on earth that came close to the joy and satisfaction of watching my kids love and play that day.
My wife looked through the kitchen window to see how our kids were doing. It dawned on me at that moment this was the beautiful college girl I married years ago … a young woman who once worried about passing exams, looking pretty, and having fun with friends who had grown up and become a caring mother whose life was deeply woven into the well-being of her children. This was the girl, who in my younger years swept me off my feet and made my hands shake; a beautiful young woman that had morphed into a form of splendor I never quite supposed. If she was beautiful to me in college, she was even more beautiful at this very motherly moment. And, if she was beautiful on that wintery day … imagine how beautiful she is to me today. I will borrow the words of my fallen son by saying, “I’m the lucky one.”
The moment I took this photo I couldn't help but think this image a metaphor.
Each time we had a child we suddenly found ourselves on the outside of something marvelous. We began to realize for the remainder of our mortal days it will be as though we’re looking through a window at someone we love and care for deeply. We watch our children make choices and blaze their own paths through life – paths that may be very different from our own. My wife and I have learned we cannot control them – but we can teach our children correct principles and hope they learn to govern themselves wisely. We can council, we can guide, and while they’re very young perhaps we can shape them a little … but at the end of the day we stand on the other side of a window and watch them. To our delight, to our disappointment, or to our horror … we watch them.
I have had experiences in my life that also tell me there is a window to a place I cannot see. I don’t pretend to know much about that place – only that I know it exists. I believe from time-to-time that window opens a little – just enough for us to sense an impression or a whisper … loving guidance from those who have gone before us and care just as much for our well-being as my wife cared for our children this day.
Whether looking back on my life through windows of retrospect, or as I watch my children learn and grow, I pray I have the wisdom to never close the blinds. What’s more, I hope to keep my windows clean so I might see things as they really are. And if I’m truly wise, I will learn to quiet my soul and keep my window open a crack … that I might hear faint whispers from those unseen who love me and have my back.