I took Wyatt to sports clips today. When we were asked to check in at the kiosk, I saw Mitchell‘s name on the register. This was the same place Mitch used to get his haircut on occasion. He always loved to get the deluxe package where stylists washed his hair and massaged his scalp.
During one of our visits Mitch said softly, “Dad, I really like it when they run their fingernails through my hair. Sometimes I almost go to sleep.” I chuckled and kissed him on the forehead and said, “Me too! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could do that to us every day?” Mitchell nodded as his eyes turned down as if to think about what I said. After a few moments of thought, he responded, “Yeah, but then it wouldn’t feel so good anymore because I’d get used to it. I like it better when things are rare.”
That sweet exchange and many other memories I had filed in the back of my mind began to wash over me the moment I saw my son’s name on the kiosk. It was an unexpected, painful reminder that my sweet son is no longer with us.
I’ve been happy lately – but I admit, my heart deflated at this moment. And when Wyatt tugged my arm and said, pointing to the kiosk, “Hey dad, look, it’s Mitchell’s name.” I felt a second wave of hollowness in my heart – an echo in the caverns of my soul. Suddenly, I felt a deep longing to have that sweet little boy back in my life.
I can see how reading this blog can be misleading to some who might think I sulk about with my head hung low, constantly picking at my wounds. What they don’t see is 90% of my life is occupied with my wife and children, work and other dreams I’m pursuing. When I sit down to write stories of Mitch, I’m opening the door to the public to my personal therapy sessions – except I’m both the patient and the therapist. Writing is how I grieve and how I heal. It works for me. When I write, I’m creating a grief moment – and those are healthy for those who will hurt for the rest of their lives. What made this encounter with my son’s name so difficult today was its suddenness. There as no warning … no way to prepare. It was a trigger, and because of it, I wept. They were refreshing tears. Healing tears.
While this tender breadcrumb pointing to my son’s absence may have pained my heart, I was grateful for the reminder of my son’s philosophy on things that were rare. Mitchell’s heart was a treasure chest in which he kept the sweetest things. I suppose this journal is a record of the things he kept close to his heart and a missive on the things he’s teaching mine.
Mitch had a maturity of mind and soul that was itself rare. He was careful never to let things he loved be over-used or taken for granted and he always delayed gratification so that the reward was both rare and deeply appreciated. One year, Natalie challenged our children to not eat any candy for a year, and she’d pay them $100. Mitch was the only one who met the challenge. I even offered to make Halloween exempt from that challenge, but he chose to be true to his original promise. On January 1st the following year, Mitch earned a crisp $100 bill. To little Mitch, it wasn’t the money that mattered as much as the accomplishment.
Even more than material things, Mitch treasured moments like none I have known before. I have yet so much to learn from my son. Today I was reminded to treasure things are rare. Specifically, while time is common to all of us –being in the moment is rare. By looking backward and examining my life, I can’t help but appreciate the moments that are yet ahead of me. Because of Mitch, I’m going to take extra care to treasure moments – for they are special. They are rare.