It was the last day of November and we were about to head home, for our time at the family ranch had drawn to an end. Little Mitch asked if he could drive a 4-wheeler one more time. I had no idea it would be his last time. Because Mitch didn't have the muscle strength to run or ride a bike like other young boys, he anxiously sought after other ways to feel the rush of wind through his hair and on his face. Riding 4-wheelers helped him do just that … and Mitch felt powerful and strong, even normal, if only for a moment. Had I known this was his last opportunity to do what he loved so much, I would have foregone meals and work and sleep for days-on-end in order to help him drink in as much life as humanly possible. We simply didn't know what little time was left, we just did the best we knew and hoped we passed the test.

As we prepared for what would be Mitchell’s last 4-wheeling adventure, this sweet little boy sat quietly in his grandmother’s garage and put his shoes on. The chair upon which he sat had deep cushions and nearly swallowed him up. Without complaining, Mitch silently struggled to get up from the couch but he couldn't – his muscles were much too weak and the cushions comfortably deep. Ethan noticed his brother quietly struggling and in need of help and quickly ran to his aid. 

This was a simple exchange that was over in the blink of an eye. Had I been outside, impatiently yelling for them to hurry up, I would have missed this silent sermon of love and service between two children. What’s more, had I been outside honking my horn anxious to complete the task of spending time, I would have missed the point of everything … for riding 4-wheelers wasn't the point, even though little Mitch loved it so, it was doing things together with love. That’s all that matters in the end. It is something of a heavenly paradox that while we raise our young children, they are also raising us; for I am a very different person from the young gallivant I once was so many years ago.

As I watched this spontaneous act of brotherly love, it occurred to me in the most profound way Mitchell’s journey was also the journey of our family. Though Mitch walked alone with DMD, because nobody could do it for him, we walked beside him and cheered him on and did our best to clear the path for him. Our lives were inseparably connected, our journey’s intertwined, yet how much pain and sorrow we would come to know had never crossed our minds. 

While Mitch had some best friends in his life, there was none so great as his older brother. These two boys were a match forged in heaven and Mitch loved him deeply. If ever I am tempted to complain about what has gone wrong in my life, I need only look at what has gone right. Ethan was a tender mercy for my son and when I think upon that gift alone, something gone right, I cannot help but weep for gratitude. For I am reminded that I have a Father who cares enough to give little comforts no matter how big our troubles seem. 

Since Mitchell’s passing I have noticed whenever Ethan sees a photo or video of Mitch I see a softness fill his countenance that is distinct and visible. There is a tenderness and admiration in his eyes I don’t normally see in anyone, for any reason. Ethan loves his little brother just as much as Mitch loves him – and that makes my heart sing. As cool a young man Ethan is becoming, I pray he never loses his softness; for softness is the fertile soil upon which relationships grow deep. I also hope he never confuses softness for weakness – they are not the same. Not at all. I think Mitch was just as much a gift to Ethan as Ethan was to him.

Mitchell’s Journey has taught me to take great comfort in the little comforts, for they all add up. When I look at this simple image of two young boys meant to be together, who learned how to lift each other in different ways, I begin to see the bigger picture. I sense we are not left comfortless, neither are we alone. Faintly, as quiet as a whisper can possibly be, I hear something and it is heavenly.