WHEN THERE IS NONE TO TAKE
Little Mitch was less than 24 hours from being admitted to the ER. We would then learn he only had days left to live. After a rigorous battle in the cardiac intensive care unit, we took Mitch home to live out the remainder of his days where he was comfortable and surrounded by everything and everyone he loved. No time in my life has been more sacred than that time with my son. We were blessed to have him 3 short weeks … which were also the longest weeks of my life. My knees are still bruised.
I’ll never forget how little Mitch leaned into his mother’s embrace in search of comfort. As his parents, we were desperate to rescue him. He was in a great deal of pain as organs in his body reacted violently to his failing heart. It is a tender, terrible irony that a little boy who had such a loving heart would die from heart failure. Natalie held our boy in her arms, also in search of comfort. But there was none to take.
Over the next few weeks we would watch our once vibrant son wither away. I wanted to have that one last conversation with Mitch. I wanted to tell him for the last time how much I loved him and how proud of I was of him. I did tell him such things while he was home … but I wanted just one more. I wanted to tell him that when I grow up, I want to be just like him. I still do.
In 2012, the Thanksgiving prior to Mitchell’s passing we were at my in-laws at a family function. Everyone took a turn to share the one thing they were grateful for. Most parents shared their gratitude for their family and for God. Children shared their gratitude for toys, family and friends. When it came time for Mitch, he simply said, “I’m just thankful to be alive.” I recorded him saying that with my iPhone. I remember that it took a maximum effort to not burst into tears at that very moment.
Another bitter irony that a child who intrinsically valued life would have it taken from him so young.
Comfort and spiritual assurance came and went like a heavenly tide under the dim light of tender mercies. After my son passed away the sky, which was already pitch as night, drew darker still. There were times I sought after heavenly answers and peace … and I received nothing. It would take repeated efforts to reach heavenward before certain answers came. Looking back, I can see that my struggle to find answers and peace [peace, where there was none to take] … that very struggle taught me things I needed to know. I discovered things I would have never learned had answers and peace come at my beck and call, as though God were some kind of cosmic butler. He is no such thing. But He is a parent and a master teacher who understands nothing of value comes easily. Sometimes the answers we seek are discovered in the struggle itself.
I often hear or read statements like “choose happiness” as though it were possible to blithely lay down our troubles like heavy, unnecessary luggage and simply move on. No sentiment could be more naive or insensitive to those who are trying to find their way through the wilderness of grief and trouble.
How are we to find peace where there seems none to take? It isn't choosing happiness, first.
At least for me, I have discovered that when I first seek meaning and purpose, happiness eventually follows. More than happiness, actually; I experience deep joy and a calming sense of understanding. Yet, when I seek happiness first, I forever hunger for that which cannot satisfy.
Little Mitch taught me to first seek meaning and purpose, then peace will follow. Understanding will fill those places that seem so empty and hollow.