When I was a young boy, I remember waking up at night only to find my mother or father gently opening my bedroom door to check on me. Sometimes, more often than not, they’d linger a moment as I’d drift back to sleep. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I began to understand why they’d linger. I found myself doing the same thing with my children, especially when they were young. I’d look upon my children with so much love in my heart I thought my tender heart would explode.
As far back as I can remember, Mitch wanted Natalie and me to tuck him in at night. That little ritual of pulling the covers up to his chin and kissing his sweet face is something I’ll always remember with a heart of gratitude. Natalie had a special way of tucking the sides of his blanket under his body on both sides, and Mitch loved the feeling of being snuggled. Soon he’d fall fast asleep. Without realizing it, I’d find myself wandering back into his room to check on him, and my other children. I’d crack the door open only to spill some warm light into a moonlit room. There, I’d see my babies fast asleep. Sometimes, I’d think how curious it was that just a few years earlier before they were born, I was totally and completely content to live without them. But now that I had them, I couldn’t imagine a life without them.
I’ve experienced all manner of loss, and nothing cuts so deep as to lose a child.
When Mitch was home on hospice, my regular prayer routine became more focused and more heartfelt. Somewhere, in the quiet of night, by my son’s bed or on the edge of mine, I wept to my Father praying for deliverance. In my suffering, I grew closer to my Father. Even still, never did night seem so dark as when my son was slipping away. I discovered that when God doesn’t deliver us from our sorrows, He will deliver us through them. I also learned, in the quiet of night, a valuable lesson about dark times and how we can begin to discern light – the kind of light that kindles faith.
Just recently, I had a conversation with a father who was undergoing a tremendous hardship. In a private message on Facebook, he asked me, “Do you believe in angels?”
I responded, “Yes, I do believe in angels and that they walk among us, unseen. Sometimes, if we're quiet and listening, we can feel their presence. Sometimes.”
I continued, “We had some profound moments with Mitch [when] he passed away. As Mitch was in the process of dying, he slept a lot [and we agonized that we were losing him before we lost him]. Natalie and I were in a state of deep despair and couldn't feel as easily what others felt. Some people dropped gifts or notes at our door, not knowing what was happening in our home the last few days. They would leave our house and send us a text saying things like, ‘I'm not sure what's happening at your home, but I felt something I've never felt before. It felt like I was walking through a crowd of angels.’”
I believe, despite how dark the world felt at the time, we were surrounded by a host of heavenly angels, bearing us up when we were so tired and so weak. In fact, I don’t think it … I know it. I know it for reasons I will not describe – for some things are too sacred to share.
I’ve come to learn over the last few years something Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” I’ve grown to appreciate that phrase, “When it is dark enough …” You see, sometimes it isn’t dark enough for us to see those heavenly blessings, that present themselves like little stars. And if we learn to look, our spiritual eyes will begin to see tender mercies that are meant for you and me.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing new stories about Mitch and how I learned to see the light, even through what seemed impenetrable darkness. I learned that in the quiet of night, even during those dark struggles of the soul, we must trust our Father and step into the unknown; for in matters of faith, that is the price. That is the toll.