GIFT GIVERS

Last September Mitchell’s Aunt Sonya, who had become almost a second mother to him, got married. Up to this point, her personal and professional life was more than coincidence – it was nothing short of providential. I will write of that another day. 

Emotions were especially tender this wedding day because a very special boy was absent. Though I was happy to be with family and I loved then so, my heart was quietly searching for the one who was missing. Though my mind knows where he is, my heart will ever search for him. I remember being on the verge of tears the entire day and I felt like the slightest bump or pebble would break the emotional dam holding back a flood of painful emotions. There were times I had to excuse myself to let the tears flow. 

As the wedding photos were being taken I noticed Sonya wearing a special gift given to our family by Cathy O’Grady, perhaps one of the most charitable and loving people I have ever met. She had been following our son’s story and felt moved to make some pendants in honor of our fallen son; a gift for which we are forever grateful. Cathy, having been touched by Mitchell’s Journey dedicated the sale of her pendants to the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – my son’s killer.

The wedding photographer, knowing our family’s loss and Sonya’s tender relationship with Mitch, took special photos of Sonya and her pendant. While these two photos are not mine, I love them because they remind me to be grateful for the gift givers of the world. When I look at these photos I see many gifts and my heart swells with gratitude.

 

  • I see my son, though a source of deep love and great agony, Mitch was a gift to me.
  • I see Sonya, a gift to our family and son from a loving Father who knew we needed and angel, and sent us one.
  • I see Cathy O’Grady, once a stranger, now a friend, the most loving of Samaritans.
  • I see the hand of my Father, who is gentle and wise … patiently teaching me to open my eyes.


I am grateful.

AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE

About seven years ago my in-laws invited our family to join them on a trip to Hawaii. Mitch was little, Wyatt was a toddler, and Laura-Ashley and Ethan were young and full of energy. The trip was a gift, but the experience of spending time together was an even greater gift. Today, the memory of that time together is the greatest gift.

Mitchell’s faithful Aunt Sonya came, too. Whenever possible she put Mitch under her wing and helped him enjoy life’s treasures before the hour grew too late. She knew the troubles that would soon come to our son in a way we did not. Her profession gave her a unique vantage point as she saw the biological horror show of DMD first-hand. She was careful to never frighten us but I could sometimes tell by the look in her eyes she was holding back a little – she knew the storms that lie ahead. But we had today. 

We spent the better part of the day swimming, making castles and rolling in the sand. Grandpa even helped Mitch catch a few waves on a boogie board. He loved that. Mitch was so cute and playful and was always concerned about getting sand in his cute little bum. The water was warm as a gentle bath and I finally understood why some call Hawaii a paradise. As the day was yawning to an end I noticed Sonya and Mitch on the shoreline watching the sun as it slowly set. Mitch loved sunsets. I remember thinking to myself when I took this photo that Mitch was lucky to have Sonya. And I thought to myself how lucky all of us were to have him. 

I wonder what my son was thinking as he looked into the ocean, as far as the eye can see. I can still hear the surf crashing softly and the ocean wind as it whispers through the palms. 

As I was meditating over this moment earlier this morning my wife came into my office and handed me a health insurance form to sign. I asked what it was for and she said it was to verify the termination of Mitchell’s coverage. In an instant my hands began to shake and my heart sank to the floor as we took one more step into our new, painful reality.

As far as the eye can see, 
grief stretches vast, and deep
even to infinity.

But there is more to grief
than pain and sorrow,
it is the longing to see my son
on some tomorrow.