I remember his tiny smile as he sat in a school bus for the first time. Mitch was about to leave on a new adventure. He didn’t know where he was going exactly, he only knew his mommy loved him and trusted she knew best. Natalie kissed Mitch on the forehead and said in a whispered tone, “I love you, little boy. I’ll see you at school.”
As the big bus drove out of the neighborhood Natalie jumped in our minivan and followed them to the elementary school several miles away. By the time the bus arrived at school, Natalie was there to help our little boy off the bus and usher him into class.
To Mitch, the world was a very big place – made even bigger by his declining muscle strength. A small staircase to you and me may as well be Mt. Everest to a child with DMD. Mitch could be easily knocked down by a simple bump in a lunchroom. Hallways made him nervous because a river of preoccupied people, in a rush to get some place, threatened to trample him unaware.
Natalie knew our son needed help, but wanted to stretch his horizons and help him grow. So, she repeated the inconvenient routine of helping him board the bus each day and then follow him to school – where she would help him on and off the bus. Natalie wanted our boy to learn independence. And that he did.
I loved this day. I loved seeing my little boy smile at me through the window of the bus. Mitch had this look on his face that seemed to say, “Look Dad! I can do hard things. I’m a big kid now.” His eyes seemed to say, “I love you.”
I remember walking with Natalie and Mitch into his preschool class for the first time. There he would meet “Mrs. Nancy.” She was energetic and kind and had a way about her that brought instant relief to nervous parents and excitement in the minds of her students. I loved her immediately. I’ll write more of her another day – but I am grateful she was placed in our son’s path. She was a tender mercy for our little boy.
In many ways, this image serves as a symbol of another journey. Only this time Mitch has been shuttled to a place far from sight. Sometimes I panic because the mortal father in me wants to know he’s alright. Yet, I know he is fine – and in a heavenly sense, I realize he was never mine. For Mitch is my brother, the son of my Father … even still, in his death, my mortal heart is still bothered. For I love and miss him, you see. And in my agony, I reach deeply for things heavenly. Could it be that is the reason for suffering?
Somewhere out on the horizon is my son … or rather, my brother. He is at a school of another sort. I cannot see it with my eyes … but I can feel it with my soul. Though he may be learning and growing … I also believe he is here, even now, helping and showing.
Now it is my turn, seated in a big and unfamiliar bus. Like my son, – I have learned to listen and to trust. I know my Father loves me and believe that He knows best. The wisest of all parents, He knows the growth that happens when we’re challenged and given tests. This life is a heavenly classroom, clothed in mortal cares ... where we learn to trust in heaven while carrying hardships from here to there.