I’m sitting quietly under the canopy of night reading my journals. These worn out books cover over 30 years of my life: stories of struggle, despair, breakthroughs and spiritual awakenings. The sound of crickets makes this moment even more nostalgic.
I have over 200 new #mitchellsjourney stories I’ll begin to publish soon. But tonight, I wanted to look further back in time.
In an earlier essay, I made reference to a dream I had that was a foreshadowing of my journey with Mitch. I’ve had two of them, years apart, in fact. They weren’t ordinary dreams - they seemed to come from a much deeper place. It’s interesting to read the details of those dreams in my own handwriting; a kind of forewarning from so many years ago.
I don’t pretend to know what’s really happening in this life, I only know we’re not alone and that something divine walks before us, beside us, and guides our ways ... most often sight unseen. Only in retrospect do things make the most sense, it seems. All the pain, injustice, joy and opportunity I’ve ever known are deeply interconnected.
When I take the time to recognize and document the many points of light in my life, I discover a kind of new, fresh courage when I step into the unknown. Life can be bewildering and hard at times, but it is also sweet and good.
We were blessed to meet a long-time reader of #mitchellsjourney over the weekend. @tandon23 and her beautiful family are from Melbourne, Australia. She dropped one of her sons off at college in southern California and then made the long drive to Salt Lake City just so she could see Mitchell’s place of rest and say hello to us.
We were humbled by her gesture of love and outreach, but worried we weren’t worth the fuss of such a long journey. We’re just a regular family trying to sort life out, after all. We were grateful to meet her in person, though, because over the years, I recognized her thoughtful comments and words of compassion. So when she said she was coming to Utah, I was excited to finally greet a friend we hadn’t met, yet.
Natalie loved getting to know her, too. She was especially humbled when Tan handed her a stuffed Kangaroo with a little name tag bearing @mi_tchel__ ’s proper spelling. That was was such a thoughtful act of kindness.
So, after a little breakfast and a visit at the cemetery, we asked them to come to our home later that evening for a BBQ. They met Marlie, Mitchell’s (not-so-little-anymore) dog, tiny Bear (Natalie’s pup), and Ethan. It was a beautiful, healing day.
I was deeply moved and reminded how much our lives are made richer when we share our hearts; both in the giving and the receiving. As far as I can tell, somewhere in the sharing of our hearts is the healing we all seek. @ Herriman City Cemetery
With Halloween tonight, I can’t help but think of Mitchell’s last. In previous years, I the weight of grief was heavy on my soul – to the point, my lungs felt shallow and my chest heavy.
This holiday is different.
Though I miss little Mitch, I feel a great deal of love and gratitude for all that ever was. Yes, I wish I had the power to bring him back – but I am a mere mortal and can only bring his memory to my mind and heart. For now, that will have to do.
I want to re-share something I wrote in 2014 – just a year after having lost him. Lately, I’ve been re-reading my previous journal entries here and I’ve wondered to myself, “What’s changed?” I’ll share some of those observations soon.
Tonight, I’ll share what I posted just a few years ago. It’s a meditation on where the real treats of life can be found; and it’s found in the giving, not the getting.
Here is that earlier post:
Trick-or-Treating was always difficult for him. Because his muscles were wasting away he couldn't go very far … each year his Halloween adventures became shorter and shorter. Even though he had a motorized scooter, getting up and down, climbing a stair or two to reach a neighborhood door was exhausting for him. He usually couldn’t visit more than 6-7 homes before he could hardly walk and wanted to go home.
To help him, Mitchell’s brothers or sister would take his trick-or-treat bag to the door while Mitch sat in his scooter on the sidewalk. Generous neighbors would lovingly place candy in his bag as little Mitch smiled in the darkness. He was always grateful.
There was another aspect to Halloween Mitch loved even more than treasuring candy unto himself. Mitch loved giving candy away at the door. To some of his closest friends who approached the door, Mitch would give them his favorite candy from his own bag.
I took this photo of Mitch on his last Halloween. He wanted to stay home and give out candy instead of trick-or-treating himself. Each time the door would shut he would turn around only to have a big smile on his face.
Mitch learned early in his life that in giving he received so much more than those who got; a life lesson he never forgot.
Later that winter my mother came to visit for a few days. We were cuddled in the basement watching a movie when Mitch struggled to get up from the couch and waddled in his funny way over to his grandmother and offered her some of his favorite cheese popcorn from Popcornopolis. I don’t think my mother realized at the time (or even to this day) the physical struggle he went through to simply get up and share what he loved. I remember that moment so vividly. It wasn't the popcorn that really mattered to Mitch, it was the giving … and it was his struggle to give that made it all the more precious. To Mitch giving was getting.
Tonight is a tender evening for me – for I will remember my little boy who loved to give more than get. I will miss seeing that big smile on his little face and most especially his warm embrace.
Not a day passes I don't think of my son’s quiet example: he gave freely when he had so little to give, and now that is how I want to live. I often marvel and wonder, “How could it be? A little boy, mortally broken, who taught me how to see ...” One day, with a weary and broken heart, I will fall to my knees and thank my Father for sending me Mitchie.
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.