Just a day before Mitch went to the hospital for heart failure, a friend and colleague of mine came by our home to offer Mitch some cheer. He was aware Mitch was in trouble, but none of us had any idea death was scratching at our windows. The next morning we would find death violently gashing at our door while we rushed our son to the hospital.

So on what seemed an ordinary Saturday, this noble man brought his wife and children with him; they didn't stay long … just long enough to let my son know they cared about him. They seemed excited for Mitch because he had his very own puppy. It seemed for a moment their joy was connected to Mitchell’s.

Reflecting on this experience I later wrote in my journal, “Nothing is quite so revealing as the origins of someone’s joy. If a person takes greater delight in the triumphs and happiness of others, more than their own indulgences, you have found a noble soul. This man is a noble soul.” It seemed for a moment, at least to me, this good man and his family found joy in watching Mitchell’s joy … and that moved my soul. 

Because this man is modest and humble, he wouldn't want me to mention any of this … let alone something he did for Mitch a few months prior. But the gratitude in my heart cannot stay my tongue; what he and his family did for Mitch was simple but profound. Upon learning our son’s heart was in serious trouble a few months prior, Spencer and his family made Mitch the most intricate and thoughtful collage (about the size of a poster) that included funny sayings and images of Mitchell’s favorite things. It was clearly a labor of love - and such labors are worth more than anything money can buy. When Mitch first saw this hand-made poster he studied it for what seemed an hour. He was so touched that they thought of him. Mitch laughed at the funny things they wrote and he was visibly touched by nice things they said. That simple poster was a gift from the heart and it touched my son’s heart.

Just a few days before Mitch passed away I sat next to my weary son as he lay on his bed lethargic and struggling to breathe. He nudged my arm softly and pointed to the collage that was made with loving hearts and Mitch smiled – as if to acknowledge the kindness extended to him months prior. He didn't forget the love he received back then and it lifted his weary heart at the end.

Once again I was reminded the origins of joy are found in the service of others. Spencer and his beautiful family found joy in lifting and loving – they didn’t seek attention, they just sought to love their neighbor quietly and sincerely. They were my teachers then and they are my teachers again today. For in the quest for joy, simply serve others, there is no better way.