Whenever Mitch went to the public library with his mother, he would always add a cookbook to his checkout. Tucked between a pile of books on amazing facts, science fiction adventures, and other boyish topics … a how-to-cook book was always in his mix.
Natalie would then drive to the grocery store and get whatever ingredients we didn’t have at home so he could create something delicious. Once he had the raw materials, little Mitch would quietly get to work. He was independent and seldom asked for help. DMD had weakened his arms considerably, so he didn’t have the physical strength to lift and pour a gallon of milk, but he could do most of everything else. Had Mitch not died of heart failure 3 years ago, by now he would likely have very limited use of his hands and barely the strength to lift a spoon. That is what DMD does to these beautiful children.
For Mitch, cooking was like assembling culinary Legos; he loved the challenge of following instructions … except when he was done cooking, he got to eat and share his creation.
I always loved walking into the kitchen to see my little boy whipping up some recipe. He had cooking down to a science; when he needed to microwave something delicate, he knew exactly how many seconds to heat the item and how long it needed to rest. I remember when he told me in his sweet, soft voice exactly how many seconds it took to perfectly melt cheese for nachos, warm a frozen burrito, or melt butter.
Mitch had an appetite for learning, doing, and becoming. He often reminded me of Henry Ford’s sage wisdom, “Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.” There are fringe benefits that come with being engaged, industrious and self-sufficient. It may sound ironic, but in many ways, I believe these fringe benefits are the greater benefits. The wood we burn will disappear, but what we become by preparing it will forever endure. That is a recipe for living.
When I look at this picture of little Mitch, I can’t help but think of the many recipes for a good life. I don’t think the recipe for a good life is much different than any recipe for a good meal … for each is different and the ingredients are unique to the dish.
The ingredients for someone with a disability will be different than that of an Olympic athlete … for their steps and victories will be different, but the principles the same. Although little Mitch lived a short life, he taught me about some ingredients that I try to use every single day:
• Follow instructions, learning from others who have figured something out is always the better path.
• Get busy doing something, nothing gets done when nothing gets done.
• Work hard, for whatever you build is also building you.
• Be kind, for when you sweeten the life of others, you can’t help but taste of that sweetness, too.
• Help others along the way, for the heavenly paradox is when we help others, we help ourselves.
• Be patient with others, for they are struggling to change, just like you and me.
• Sprinkle gratitude over everything, for gratitude begets more gratitude, and that is a good thing.
• Trust the process, though long and hard our struggles might seem, life’s difficulties will make us stronger, if we’ll allow it.
I remember laying by my son in his bed the night before he passed away. He was in a deep sleep and all I wanted to do was wake him up so that I might have more time. I couldn’t wake him, so I just cried and held him in my arms and wet his pillow with my tears. In that moment of quiet agony, I thought of ordinary, yet beautiful moments like this … where Mitch loved life and tried to make the most of everything. I vowed then, and vow again today, to make the most of every moment … so one day I can say, “I followed the recipe and lived a good life.”