A few years ago little Mitch was undergoing some routine stress tests to determine if Muscular Dystrophy had affected his breathing muscles yet. Even though he appeared normal at the time, DMD was on a steady course to take away his ability to walk, use his arms, breathe and eventually destroy his heart. And while DMD destroyed my son’s biological heart first, it never defeated the goodness of his heart. He was a kind, loving and grateful little boy to the very end. And while my heart has been broken I will learn from my son and never let it become hardened.
From the moment Mitchell was diagnosed to the day he passed away I made a personal commitment to be there for him, every step of the way. I wasn’t a perfect father, but I did my best to be a good daddy. And even though I stumbled and fumbled time and again, for Mitchie, he only saw that I was trying and that seemed to be good enough for him.
In this photo Mitch and I were fully engaged in hospital shenanigans. I was supposed to be in a waiting room but instead I walked down the hall and sought him out and started sneaking shots. I’ll never forget his giggles and smiles as I would pretend to be stealthy. The medical technician was kind enough to play along and pretend she wasn’t aware of me. That made the artificial tension and humor even more fun. In my son’s young eyes, all that was happening was real and I was on the edge of getting “busted”.
I had long forgotten about this moment until I stumbled across this photo a few days ago; and upon seeing it the memories came crashing in like a massive wave and swept me off my feet and I wept a potpourri of emotions.
I always wanted to be there for my son, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I recognized if we’re not watchful, it is so easy to talk but never really communicate, to hear and not listen, to hug and never really say “I care.” And for little Mitch, I wanted to “be there” in every way possible. And looking back, this moment (and many like them) paid dividends then and continues to pay dividends today. And more often than not, it was being present in the ordinary moments that carry with them the sweetest memories. The conversations in the car, the bedtime chats, drawing pictures together, taking time to watch a movie or play Legos … seemingly ordinary moments, often at the tail end of exhaustion, were when the magic moments happened.
As I looked through this hospital door at my little boy, he knew I was there for him … in every way that mattered. I hope that knowledge helped him in some way when he started slipping away. I haven’t died, so I don’t know what truly crosses one’s mind as they cross over. But I hope, when he was scared, that he reflected on the moments we had together and that little Mitch found peace in the knowledge he wasn’t alone … that he knew we were always “there” for him … way back when to the moment of his passing. And perhaps, at some sacred point in the years to come, a door between this world and the next will open a crack and I can see my little son smiling once again. But if not … I know in my heart I did all that I could to be there. And that will have to do.