WHAT FRIENDS DO FOR EACH OTHER

Wyatt's friend, Porter, injured his hip recently and cannot go out to play. So Wyatt strapped two bowls of warm macaroni and cheese to the back of his motorcycle and drove it to his home so they could have lunch together. When asked what he was doing he said, "I'm doing what friends do for each other." 

This is what life is all about.

ONLY SOULS

As I watched these beautiful souls talk it occurred to me that while age may divide us, it is our hearts that combine us. And, like little Mitch taught me, when we see with our hearts we see everything that matters. And when we do that, generations crumble to the earth and all that remains are souls.

TAKING TIME FOR THINGS THAT MATTER

Mitch had just finished having an annual checkup at Shriners Hospital. I was there with my wife to let Mitch know I loved and supported him. With very few exceptions, I was always there. I never wanted my son to turn around and see and empty chair where his daddy should have been. I wanted him to know I was with him every step of the way. It has always been that way … until his very last day.

As we were leaving the hospital I asked young Mitch if he’d like to go to work with me. He smiled softly and nodded yes. My heart leapt from my chest.

While driving to the office an old friend and colleague who owns a simulation business asked if I could stop by his office to discuss some upcoming projects. I told him I had my son with me but that I’d be glad to. He was not at all bothered to have my little one around – in fact, he welcomed it. This good man was a father, too, and had the same family values I held so dearly. 

We met briefly in his conference room and discussed some matters at hand. Sensing business could wait and that there was more important things to do, Reg leaned forward toward Mitch and said, “Hey Mitch, do you want to drive a real simulator?” Mitch was shy and didn’t want to intrude – but the little gamer in him desperately wanted to drive a real simulator. With that, my colleague and friend escorted Mitch to a warehouse attached to the back of his office. This was where he built prototypes. This good man and successful entrepreneur recognized an opportunity to lift a little boy’s heart and expand his horizons.

To think he took time for Mitch, to let my boy know he mattered enough to take time out for him … that warms my heart and soul. It stirs within me a desire to do more of that for others. He didn’t just give Mitch a gift that day … Reg gave me a gift; a gift that still comforts me to this day. I can still see in my mind the smile on my son’s face as we drove out of his parking lot. Mitch said, “Dad, that was awesome!”

Fast-forward a few years and I received an email from this good man … almost exactly a year after my son had passed. He said he felt prompted to send me a message that might bring comfort to my heart – a heart he knew was weary with grief. 

“Dear Chris,

I hope I am not trespassing on your privacy. I have been thinking of you this month and was prompted to write this that it may offer some comfort to you to know that your well-being is thought of by others …” 

The letter continued to offer compassion and then he recounted some of his own experience with grief and loss.

He described how he was in Heathrow Airport after completing a project in England and was about to begin his journey home. Prior to his flight, Pan Am located him and told him to call home immediately. He then learned his youngest twin daughter, Valerie, had passed away. I wept as I read his words … how he described his feelings of helplessness, guilt, vulnerability and so many other emotional horrors I knew all too well. My tears didn’t spring because of my own loss … I cried because of his. I knew his heartbreak and I was so sorry to hear how much he hurt. My tears were tears of empathy and compassion. Yet, in his very message, he was doing the same for me.

Once again, I experienced the supernal doctrine of mourning with those that mourn. What a powerful principle of hope, healing and a taste of heaven above … to care enough to feel another’s hurt and love.

The more I examine my life, the more I’m convinced everything matters. From trivial pursuits to things of deep importance … everything matters. The key is in knowing and pursuing what matters more. The most trivial of pursuits matter, not because they are important, but because they have the potential to keep us from things that matter more. Even still, when I consider all the things I feel are important, they are not all equal: the fact is, some important things matter more than others. 

I hope to always have discerning eyes – so I can know the difference. I am grateful for good friends, like Reg, who have compassionate hearts and good souls … who remind me to take time for things that really matter. In the end, that is all that really matters.

ITS ABOUT TIME

A friend of mine started a project that I've grown to love for many, many reasons. At the heart of her project is time: both how and where we spend it. 

Ever since I lost little Mitch, I began to think about how and where I spent my time. When I stop to think about it, my most rewarding (and healing) memories have come from putting my time into things that mattered most to me. 

Nothing is so abused or misused as time ... yet, with that same time, nothing can be so powerful and life-altering. Time is life's greatest currency; and we cannot save, borrow or steal it. We can only spend it, waste it or invest it. 

So, when this Mitchell's Journey follower-turned-friend introduced me to her project about putting time into things that matter, I was excited because her effort aligns with everything I know about life and what's most important. For, its the true value of time and what we do with it that's at the very heart of Mitchell's Journey and the subject of my professional pursuits.

Take a look at this project www.timemachine.do or you can visit www.facebook.com/Thetimemachine2015/timeline

Put your time into one of their time challenges and you'll find you get more out of it than you ever put into it. Her program doesn't cost any money and the only thing they ask you to do are the very things we so often say to ourselves, "Oh, yeah, I'll get to that." The challenges ask us to do things that make life fun, meaningful and worth living.

There is Mitchell's Journey challenge embedded in the app, too. 

At the end of the day isn't everything really about time? I hope to always put my time to things that matter most.

NOT THROUGH WORDS, BUT DEEDS

It was cold and snowy outside when we heard a tap on our front door. It was Rodney Thornell, a neighbor and friend who lived just a few blocks away. Standing beside him was his own puppy whose face peered upward with the innocence of a sweet child. Rodney and his family named their dog Dragon. Mitch thought that was neat because he loved dragons … and puppies. Mitch later told me, “Dad, what a cool idea. If I get another dog, I want to do the same thing.”

This good man, knowing our son was home on hospice and running out of time, came to our home to cheer Mitch up and offer a smile or two. Mitch laughed and laughed as he watched his tiny puppy bark and jump about as if she were a credible match to her much larger play friend. In Marlie’s mind, she was as big as or bigger than Dragon. It didn’t matter that Dragon’s head was about as big as Marlie’s entire body – she had made up her mind and that was it. 

Unaware of his size and relative strength, Dragon’s playful paw would knock Marlie over and she would summersault forward a time or two. Like a snowflake or tiny ninja, Marlie would bounce back to her bitty paws as if nothing happened and go at it again with her adorable little bark. She was a fighter. Just like Mitch. 

Mitch loved to watch those dogs play – and so did we. 

I don’t think this good man knows what he did for our family and especially little Mitch. He could have sat on the other side of his computer screen, watching our posts and feeling after us. He might have also offered a prayer or two on our behalf. Instead, this good man, who happened to also be our family dentist and had cared for our son’s teeth in previous years, cared also for his heart and soul. He served our family with love and compassion. It is amazing how a little love can lift a broken heart and soul. 

Rodney was always kind and considerate to our family. He never stayed too long; just enough to lift our son’s spirits, then he was on his way. He came a few times – which really meant a lot to our family - especially Mitch. 

I remember walking him to the door on his last visit before little Mitch passed away. I had a sinking feeling in my heart that would be the last time little Mitch would see them. I swallowed the lump in my throat as my friend walked away. Later that night I prayed that his family would be blessed 1,000-fold for the goodness he showed us.

There is a saying (there are many variations) that goes something like this: “In all things, teach others about [God], and when necessary, use words.” I am grateful for my neighbor, friend and family dentist who taught me heavenly things… not through words, but quiet deeds.

TO FORGIVE IS TO LIVE

It wasn't long ago my dear wife came into my basement office and handed me a sealed envelope. It was another breadcrumb left behind by our tender son that had been sitting in a small stack of papers waiting to be organized. On the front of the envelope was Mitchell’s handwriting in purple crayon addressed to his best friend Luke. As my wife gestured me to open it, my hands trembled a little. Actually, they trembled a lot. This undelivered letter was from Mitchie’s last real birthday (April 29th 2012).

As I opened the envelope and then the carefully folded paper, I felt that all-too-familiar lump in my throat begin to grow. Swallowing suddenly became difficult and the air became as thin as Jupiter's. The last person to touch that paper was my dear son – and my fingers trembled with grief. Mitchell’s sweet letter read, “Dear Luke, I am so sorry. Will you still be my friend? I really want to play with you. :-) I really want you to come to my birthday party this Friday.”

Beneath the hand written letter were balloons for those he invited or near to his mind. Included were his brothers and sister, and Derik and David (two young boys who live just down the street). Floating above the other balloons were two; one for Mitch and another for Luke – as if to symbolize their special friendship and olive branch. As if his carefully drawn artwork weren't enough, Mitch re-traced his letters with different colors to show that he really cared. I love children. 

Mitch and Luke almost always got along, but because they were human they also had disagreements from time-to-time. Clearly, this was one of those moments. A childhood indiscretion was noted, a soft petition for forgiveness was made … and my heart swelled to see the innocence of children on display. 

In the grand scheme of things their disagreement was hardly a speed bump … but to Mitch, a young boy who treasured his relationships, it was a mogul turned mountain and he wanted to make it right. Luke, was ever the faithful, forgiving friend to Mitch and they always seemed to bounce back quickly if there was ever a disagreement on either side. 

I’ll never forget when Luke stood at the foot of Mitchell’s bed the evening before he passed away to say goodbye and share how much he loved him. That was a moment that brought me to my knees and broke my soul into smithereens. Never had I seen a more powerful gesture of brotherly love among humans. I pray that I never have to see such a sight again.

I admire the absolute goodness of children. If only adults could be as grown up as our little ones are at times. Emma Goldman wrote, "No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure." At least to me, this handwritten note from my son (a letter that could have been written by any one of your children), is a master class in what it means to be human. Mitch and Luke taught me through crayon and pencil that to forgive is to truly live.

Any more, it seems the older I get the more I find myself trying to unlearn what the world has taught me and re-learn what children demonstrate so naturally.

SIX TENDER MERCIES

Last spring we were visited by 4 kind women who had been following Mitchell’s Journey for some time. The woman closest to Natalie lived near us when we were young newlyweds. They quickly became soul sisters … you know, the kind of friend you don’t see for years and pick up exactly where you left off. That is them. Interestingly, I have the same relationship with her good husband. 

As it turned out, her neighbors and friends pictured in this image stumbled into Mitchell’s Journey at various points and they realized they all had that in common and took compassion for the loss of our little boy. Together, they purchased a gift for our family; a most beautifully framed painting that was symbolic of heavenly help while we suffer, even in our darkest hours. I will write of that piece of art soon because it has touched us deeply. 

Attached to the back of the artwork was a heart-felt letter written to our family, which ironically was as much a gift as the beautiful art that now graces our home. 

After much thought, we decided to hang the painting in our bedroom so it could serve as a reminder that, though we suffer, we are helped by others, even angels, we cannot see. I know this to be true. I know it because I have felt it: not once, not twice, but many, many times. Another reason we wanted this painting to hang near our bed was so that on nights when the pain of loss is especially tender, our pillows wet with tears; or when we awake in a panic (in the fog of sleep, forgetting our son has passed) and wanting desperately to save Mitchell’s life, only to fully awake and realize he is gone; we wanted the first thing we saw to be this painting. For those moments between sleep and consciousness are our darkest hours. 

I don’t think these good-hearted women realize to this day what they did for us. Not only did they mourn with those that mourn, they offered a token of love that pointed to a higher source of help … a reminder that despite the darkness we sometimes feel, heaven is never far away. 

As I was taking photos this day I began to think back on Natalie’s relationship with her friend, Kristin, and how interesting it was all of these good women came together. I wrote in my journal, and even posted this phrase: “I used to envision life’s journey as a single, straight path: I’m born, I live, then die – its simple math. But the older I get, the more I’m beginning to see, how intertwined our lives really can be. Life’s not a path to be tread by one, but a web so intricate and woven ... It is, I am certain, heavenly spun.”

It is seldom clear to what end things are meant to be. I just take them as they come and try to see things as Heaven sees. I don’t know much, but I have learned a thing or three - one of them being: when it comes to heaven … the more you look, the more you see. And when I look at this photo, I see 6 earthly angels .. six tender mercies. Then, in a moment of heavenly delight, grief subsides and I feel everything's going to be alright.