A LIFE WORTH LIVING
A year had passed since we learned of Mitchell’s diagnosis and our hearts were still tender. It was mid-July and the hot summer air wrapped our bodies like a warm sweater you couldn't take off. Only the shade of a tree, a soft breeze or a scattered cloud that covered the sun would offer a moment of relief. The sound of insects filled the air. I couldn't help but think of those endless summers I came to know and love during my own childhood; where the woods were vast and deep and perfectly camouflaged the forts we made of scrap wood and plastic sheets. Those summers I played with my friends deep into twilight. To this day I can almost hear the laughter of my friends or the voice of my mother calling me home.
The laughter I heard in my mind from yesteryear slowly faded to the back of my mind as the sounds of Ethan & Mitch came back into focus … and my heart was glad. Ethan absolutely loved his little brother, and Mitch loved him. I sat on the grass as these two little brothers romped around like little boys do. I remembered being just like them. In many ways, I still am. At one point Mitch spontaneously grabbed his older brother and kissed his cheek. Ethan instinctively wrapped his arms around him and hugged Mitch with all the love he had. Suddenly I thought to myself, “Now this is a life worth living.”
Although the future frightened us, we made a conscious effort to let tomorrow be – for we understood that to give in to worry and stress would rob us of today – and today was all we could count on. It wasn't easy. It took practice. But each day we became a little better at it. Each day we got a little better at living. A little better at loving.
It was about this same time in my life I was having a conversation with a dear friend about hardships and our experience with Mitch. He said, almost in passing, “Life is tough. And then your chocolates melt.” Although he wasn't trying to say anything profound, I was taken aback. I quickly wrote it down and committed it to memory. Bruce Newbold, my dear friend who has also become teacher to me, made a profound acknowledgement that life is hard and sometimes it gets even harder.
Yet despite my sorrows, life is still worth living.
When Mitch was 3 years old he was given a death sentence. My wife and I could have wasted away our days in fear of the inevitable. But at some point we realized life is also fatal – and none of us can escape it. The point of life isn’t that we escape death, but that we learn how to live it while we have it. And to live a life of love and service is life worth living.
As I said in a post last December, losing my son has been the bitterest of cups; it has turned my life upside down, but right-side up.
It isn't possible to count the many pieces of my heart that are still broken and scattered about – for they are without number and seem to stretch out for miles … even to infinity. But I am picking up each tender piece as I find them and washing them with my tears and putting them back where they belong.
And while I search to heal my heart, I have discovered each time I love or serve someone my heart heals a little – and that makes life worth living, too.