It was a mildly warm summer day, June 12, 2012. As we sat in the examination room, I marveled over how Mitch, a boy barely ten, learned to endure the tedium of doctors visits with a glad heart and cheerful countenance. I knew on the inside he was anxious to be done with it – but he learned at an early age discomfort was a necessary fact of life, misery a choice.
While waiting for lab results, I remember Mitch saying, “Dad, I wish I didn’t have to be here.” He would pause a moment to reflect, then say, “But at least I get to play with my friends later.” At that moment, Mitch reminded me of one of his greatest virtues: he didn’t see his cup half empty or half full, he was just glad there was something in it. Therein lies a key to lasting happiness.
Mitchell’s cardiologist placed a stethoscope on his chest to listen to his fumbling heart. Earlier that Spring, we discovered his heart function had experienced a dramatic decline, which put in motion aggressive steps to slow any further muscle wasting to his heart.
I could tell by the look on his doctor’s face that things were getting worse. Natalie could see it, too. It would be a few more months before we learned therapies were utterly failing. It was as though God was calling our son home and no amount of medicine or scientific intervention could save him. Medicines that should have had at least some effect had none whatsoever.
While his cardiologist was listening to the erratic rhythm of his heartbeat, I began listening to the heart of his soul. Mitchell’s soft smile and grateful demeanor bore evidence his spiritual heart was healthy, and for that I was grateful. For I sensed dark storms ahead, and soon Mitch would need to rely on the light within.
As I saw my broken boy, I remembered the saying, “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.” Mitch taught me to see far beneath the skin – to reverence the soul that lives therein.
There were times I wondered why Heaven gave me a broken child. The answer would eventually come, but it would take a while. I cried at commercials and wept over songs – so why was I given a child with something so terribly wrong? I scoured the internet and read piles of books – I sought after answers. I looked, and I looked.
The answers elusive, like catching a cloud – until the moment I listened with my heart and heard answers not spoken aloud. Hardship’s a teacher, that’s plain to see. No one escapes it; not you, not me. But the lessons of life are often quite subtle – until we learn that strength of any kind comes from the struggle.
Whenever trouble finds me, or when I’m lost or don’t know where to start, I've learned to quiet my mind and listen to my heart.