Fall was almost in full swing when Natalie and I took our kids to a nearby park. We decided to visit one of the older parks, where the trees were mature, and blankets of earthy leaves covered the ground.
Mitch was known to do a funny, signature skip and hop when he was happy. I’ll share a video of that soon. Because his muscles were growing weaker each day, his happy skip became more uncoordinated and labored as time went on. That never stopped him from doing it, however. In fact, as his body grew weaker, his sense of happiness seemed to grow stronger. I always enjoyed watching him at the park; sometimes, in the distance, Mitch would have a conversation with himself, then suddenly it was as though he was struck by a bolt of joy and he began skipping out of the blue.
On this occasion, when Mitch tried to skip, his legs gave out, and he fell. Ethan, his older brother, quickly reached down to see if Mitch was okay and offered to help him up. My heart swelled with gratitude for my family and the lessons of love and service my children continually taught me. At that moment, I was overcome with an impression that despite the hardship our family was facing, Heaven was using that experience to help shape us – not just Mitch, but all of us.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched my surviving children cope with grief in their own, unique way. It has been a difficult and sometimes dark, treacherous journey. I don’t write about those experiences because I respect my children’s privacy – but I will say, it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes the grief journey was made more difficult by outsiders meddling, other times our grief was made complicated by inexperienced psychologists, forever shutting the door of a young mind in need of that kind of help. In my book, which will be completed soon, I share some of the challenges we faced and what we learned because of it. I hope it helps others who navigate their journey with loss as we share a kind of “if we could do [certain things] over, we’d do this differently” observations.
I wish weren’t so, but our troubles after Mitch passed were just beginning, and we had to navigate a labyrinth of issues that were as complex as they were bewildering. During that difficult time, I remembered F. Scott Fitzgerald observation on the difference between trouble and discouragement, “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement. Discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.”
I am certainly not immune to discouragement – and sometimes trouble stirs those feelings up. But when I remember Mitch, who never let his troubles make him feel discouraged, I’m reminded to step back and recognize that trouble is only temporary. Discouragement, if not managed, can become a chronic condition.
As I consider this tender moment between little brothers – I’m reminded that no matter my troubles, I can step back and find gratitude for something. In fact, I can find gratitude for many things. Anymore, I’m beginning to see that it’s not trouble that weighs us down … it’s discouragement.
I can’t do much about trouble, but I can find ways to rise above it and be grateful for life.