THE GIFT OF GIVING

With Halloween around the corner, I can’t help but think of Mitchell’s last. 

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. 

In order to help him, Mitchell’s brothers or sister would often 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. 

Tomorrow will be 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.

DANCING IN THE RAIN

I hesitate sharing a highly used/overused quote, but I think its appropriate. Vivian Greene wrote, “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.”

To live with grief is to live with all manner of rain and sorrow; from subtle mists to deep downpours ... there is no escaping it. I've learned there isn't a raincoat or umbrella that will shield you from grief. Despite our heartache and pain, we're learning to dance in the rain.

Mitch had a very fun side. Because he was more interested in others than drawing attention to himself, he was usually quiet and observant around others. But if he let you in, you would get a first-row ticket to wit and humor that would have an adult in stitches. Mitch was a very funny little boy.

At home, we have so many fun traditions, each of which always brought Mitch a great deal of happiness. So, in honor of Mitchie, yesterday we participated in some family shenanigans. 

This is for you little Mitch.

HAPPINESS

Over the last few years my business partner (who has since become one of my best friends) and I would occasionally take our kids camping. Each location was radically different from one another – which made every excursion an uncharted adventure. From winter camping high in the mountains to settling deep in a canyon, our kids have experienced various types and places. 

On one occasion I remember taking our kids to the west desert. The ground was barren and dry, almost post-apocalyptic. Aside from a highway far in the distance, almost completely out of view, there was nothing but the desert. Night was fast approaching as we started a campfire and noticed thunderstorms far in the horizon that almost completely surrounded us. The contrast in light and color was mesmerizing - with the clear sky above and the deep, shadow-filled blues in the distance. As the sun set Mitch and I sat in a chair and watched towering mountains of cloud explode with light. It was magical. I have photos of that trip and will post them some day.

On another occasion [as seen in this photo] we took our kids high into the Uinta mountain range. Clay (my friend) was also a scout leader and helped our boys fulfill some requirements for a merit badge. The trip was a triple-win.

There wasn't a cloud in sight and because we were far from city lights we could see far into the heavens at night. I loved camping with my little boys because it was just one more occasion to cuddle with all of them. Each time we went camping Mitch and I would whisper to each other as we gazed through the tent into the stars – and this trip was no exception. 

The next morning we cleaned up camp and packed our cars when Clay suggested we play a game. The objective of this game was to line the kids up and have one child whose back was turned to everyone. While his/her back is turned the kids run toward the person (in this photo Mitch is the one whose back is turned). If he/she turns and sees someone moving, that person goes back to where they started. It’s terribly fun. 

Each child took a turn and it was so rewarding to see them laugh and have fun together. When it was Mitchell’s turn I remember seeing this shy, quiet boy smile. I will never forget the look on his face. He belonged … and he loved it. This experience, this look on my son’s face has never been far from my mind and it has brought me so much happiness.

Belonging, when he felt so apart from everything, meant so much to my son. And because it meant so much to him, it meant just as much to me. To see Mitchie visibly happy, to feel like he belonged … my heart leapt for joy this day. And it leaps again today.

As a very young boy I remember hearing my parents tell me they were happiest when they saw me well and happy … when they saw me learn and grow. I often scratched my head in confusion – sometimes I wondered if they were on drugs. But I have come to learn my parents weren't crazy and the only drug they knew was love. 

Being a father has taught me where my greatest joys are found … and they aren't found on the internet or in a store or a flashy box or sitting in a showroom for all to see. Real joy comes from those invisible moments [like this moment captured on camera] and those investments in time and attention with my family. Short of my relationship with God, I have known no greater joy. While my heart cries out with sorrow, it also shouts with happiness.

When I consider myself, a deeply flawed, imperfect father who stumbles again and again … yet I can find so much joy in the happiness in my children … how much more might our Father, who is perfect in every way, find joy in us, His children? Could it be that His happiness, too, is in seeing his Children well and growing? Indeed. 

Suddenly, the great plan of happiness becomes a little clearer and a lot more personal.