Overcome by a high fever, Mitch lay motionless in his bed. Our hospice nurse informed us his body was making one last attempt to survive and that his time was very, very near. Natalie sat by the side of his bed and began reading a children’s book that Mitch purchased and been wanting to read a few months prior. With a soft voice, even that of an angel, Natalie began to whisper that sweet story to her son.
Little Mitch was awake, but he could not open his eyes. His only means of communication was squeezing our fingers when asked a question. He signaled to Natalie he wanted her to read it to him.
Ever since Natalie was a little girl, she dreamt of being a mother. Having and raising children of her own was the greatest desire of her heart. So in this tender moment, my heart sank to the floor as I saw a noble mother … a woman who would have laid down her own life if it would have spared her child harm, forced to say a slow and painful goodbye.
There was no malice in her. She was a kind-hearted soul who always found ways to serve those around her. As for Mitch … he was innocent and good. He had done the world no harm – in fact, he brought the world a measure of peace and comfort by his gentle nature. Yet here they were; seemingly undeserving of such sorrow.
There was a time that it almost felt as if Mitchell’s room was transforming into a kind of spiritual train station … that we were waiting until such time our son would be swept away to some far-off place, never to return. Knowing that time was near, my heart swelled with love and gratitude when I saw Natalie do what noble mothers do … love and serve.
The next day Natalie and I would find ourselves kneeling, not at the side of Mitchell’s then empty bed, but our own, pleading for comfort. For months, we would wet our pillows with tears of deep grief and a most tender sorrow.
How is it that two noble souls were caused to suffer in such a way as this? A mother’s lifelong dream dashed and a faithful child’s life cut short. Surely there are others in this world who would cause harm to others – why not them? Why must the innocent and pure suffer?
I do not know the purpose of all things – but I have discovered a little about the meaning of human suffering. I’ve been taught that even if we do well, and we suffer for it, that we’re to take it patiently. I have learned that it rains on the just and unjust and that nobody is spared sorrow. I don’t ask “Why me?” … I ask “What am I to learn from this?”
Just today, Natalie and I went to the cemetery to visit little Mitch and reflect on our last 4 years without him. Natalie said, “You know what I think? If you’re going to build muscle, you must lift heavy things. It takes work, sweat and a lot of effort. Why should my soul be any different? I guess that’s why we have to carry this.”
There have been times in my life when I fell deeper in love with my wife. At this moment, when Natalie read to Mitch on his dying day … when she served him with tenderness and love – I fell deeper in love with this noble mother. And I fell deeper in love with her again today, as she shared a spiritual insight that strengthened me and gave me fresh courage. I am grateful for this noble mother who loves and serves, despite the heavy things she must carry.
I am a lowly husband and father who stands deep in the shadow of his wife and fallen son. I hope to always honor Mitch by serving, protecting, and loving his mother. While the world, delirious and confused, pointing one way and another … I will follow the example of Natalie, my teacher … a noble mother.