About two months ago I was sitting near the front of a large auditorium before the annual PPMD conference was about to begin. I was scheduled to give a keynote toward the end of the conference, and my mind was occupied, a little frantic even, trying to figure out how to best convey a message of hope and gratitude.
My heart is never so tender as when I’m about to speak to an audience about little Mitch. I missed my boy and wished he was still with me; yet in sharing him, whether, from pen or pulpit, I get to re-live some of the sweet and all-too-brief moments, I had with him. As a broken-hearted father, keeping my memories close helps him not feel so far away.
So, there I sat … busy worrying - worrying about what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. I felt strangely unprepared and unqualified. In the corner of my eye, I noticed a young man walking toward me. His body and posture carried the same signature my son Mitchell had when he was with me. This young man (16) was from India – but living in California for a few years so he could participate in a clinical trial. His soft, kind smile reminded me of Mitch.
He gently handed me a small yellow bag and said he and his mother wanted me to place a gift by Mitchell.
The lump that was already in my throat because I was thinking about my son began to grow larger.
Inside the bag was a little figurine of a small child sleeping next to a puppy – symbolic of Mitch and the comfort he received from his little Marlie. Also, in the bag was a handwritten letter that began with the words, “Dear beautiful, tender, and sweet Mitchell …” When I read those words, my eyes instantly filled with tears – so much so, I nearly wept. The letter to Mitch was thoughtful and kind and referred to something Mitchell said when spoke of forgiving an adult who was unkind to him. Mitch said, “When you see with your heart, you see everything that matters.”
Recently this young man, Abhinav, reached out to me on Facebook and we became friends. I’m grateful to know another young man like my son – whose heart is kind and thoughtful. Someone who reminds me what it means to be good.
The thoughtful note and gift so touched me, and I was anxious to honor the request of this sweet family. So, when I returned home, I went to the cemetery and reverently placed this at the foot of Mitchell’s headstone.
I have discovered a certain peace and symbolism in this gift – a reminder that my son sleeps in peace. It also reminds me of the sweet and tender times I had with my little boy. Though my heart remains broken, I can yet bask in the warm glow of good memories. And in that warmth, I am grateful for all that I had – for that is enough, and more.