2017 GIFT & BLANKET DRIVE

2017 GIFT & BLANKET DRIVE
For those who are interested in helping Mitchell's Journey lift the hearts of children this holiday season, we're holding our 5th annual Gift & Blanket drive and will be donating all contributions to Shriners Hospital, the same hospital that cared for Mitch and many other children with DMD. This time of year can feel cold and scary, especially if you're a sick child in a hospital. So, we want to help children feel loved in the same way Mitch felt loved.

The second image in this post is the card we attach to every gift and blanket - so families who receive your donation know it comes from a generous heart (you) who was touched by little Mitch.

Please send packages by December 20th to:

5526 West 13400 South #102
Herriman, UT 84096

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

I just love Christmas ... I love everything about it. I remember when I first bought this little USB Christmas tree ... Mitch thought it was so cool and he loved to come to the office and see it aglow on my desk. The screen saver (behind the tree) is close to my heart because it reminds me of Mitchell's love of sunsets, cozy atmospheres and his romantic view of the holidays. To him, he looked forward to giving gifts to others then snuggling up in a warm and cozy home with the people he loved. That's all I want to do anymore: give and love.

I thought I lost this tree a year ago, but Natalie recently found it buried under other Christmas decorations. Today, when I look at this little tree I think of Mitch and the beautiful gift he was and remains in my life. Despite the heartache that comes and goes like an evening tide, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Though painful, I wouldn't trade the gift of Mitch for anything.

I just hope one night I can see my son in my dreams so I can tell him how much he mattered to me and how very much I love him.

8 WAYS TO MAKE LASTING CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

The holidays were always Mitchell's favorite time of year. To him, it was a chance to snuggle with mom and dad just a little more, a time to look out the window and watch the snow blow by as the winter wind howled, and it was always a reason to make his favorite hot chocolate.

May your memories, new or old, be a light to your heart and a warm hearth for your soul.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Over the years, our family has developed some traditions that have served us well and I want to share them with you. Yes, I carry the weight of grief this holiday, but I am also filled with gratitude for the time I spent doing what mattered most to me ... spending time with my family.

You can read about these traditions under seasonal/merrychristmas!  

I hope by sharing what we have done, you'll have ideas that help you make memories of your own.

To those who struggle with grief, disappointment or discouragement, I care. I know how long and cold the winter nights can feel. May your memories, new or old, be a light to your heart and a warm hearth for your soul.

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NOTE: This image is a preview from a Christmas eBook we're going to have ready just before the holiday.  I'll keep you posted when that book is available.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

This was Mitchell’s last October. We went to a local farmer’s lot to pick out some pumpkins to carve. Autumn had slipped away and we were deep into fall, each day getting colder and colder. Except this day was unusually summer-like and the evening sun warmed our skin as if from a nearby fireplace.

In honor of my son, I will look for those whose bags are a little empty and try to fill them with love and encouragement. Where I can, I will try to carry those who stumble, though I often stumble myself. For the key to happiness, I’ve discovered, is found in giving, not getting.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Because his leg muscles had wasted away, Mitch had trouble walking around the uneven terrain. He tripped and stumbled a few times and he was much slower than the rest of the children. I couldn’t help but notice the look on my son’s face as he saw other kids race past him. He had a look of gratitude and determination. At one point he just smiled and said to me, “Dad, I’m just glad I can still walk.” 

After a lumbering about the pumpkin patch for a while, we each took turns giving our boy a piggyback, so our little boy’s legs could rest. Though he was getting bigger each year, carrying him was never a burden but in fact a great blessing.

Halloween was just around the corner and I wondered what my boy wanted to do. Each year, trick-or-treating became more and more difficult. In the beginning, he used his electric scooter to go from home to home. As each year passed his muscles became weaker and trying to climb up a neighbor’s stairs to knock on their door was exhausting for him. The year prior to his last Halloween, he just parked on each drive way and Luke or Wyatt would take his basket and trick-or-treat for him. That wasn’t much fun for Mitch because, like so many other children’s activities, he sat on the sidelines and watch the party from afar. No matter his disappointment or wanting to do what other children did, Mitch bore his burden with a tender smile - grateful to be alive.

So, as I carried my son on my back this warm October evening in the Pumpkin patch I asked Mitch what he wanted to be for Halloween. He said, “Dad, I just want to stay home and give candy to other kids.”

“Are you sure Mitchie? I will carry you door-to-door if you want.” I replied. 

He responded with a soft whisper, “No, I want to stay home with you. Plus, I like giving to others more.”

True to his word, Mitch stayed home Halloween night and handed candy out to other children. Each time he shut the door he had a big smile on his face. Giving to others brought more joy to little Mitch than getting ever did. Although his Halloween bag was empty that night, his heart was overflowing. So was mine.

To our surprise, later that night, thoughtful friends knowing he was too weak to trick-or-treat brought him some of their candy. 

Though Halloween was different that year, in every way that matters, it was a happy Halloween.

In honor of my son, I will look for those whose bags are a little empty and try to fill them with love and encouragement. Where I can, I will try to carry those who stumble, though I often stumble myself. For the key to happiness, I’ve discovered, is found in giving, not getting.

ALONE IN THE DARK

A few weeks ago I took my sweet wife on a winter photo shoot. The night was bitter cold and the earth was covered in a fresh blanket of fluffy snow. Mitch would have been entranced by the quiet beauty of it all. I never go anywhere that I don’t take my little son with me in my mind and heart.

When we arrived at the secluded wood I handed my wife a lantern made of twigs I discovered several months prior. I then placed a light in the heart of the lamp. As Natalie began to walk through a darkened, wintry forest I shot what was in my mind and heart. It was a metaphor for something I was feeling and I had to get it out of me. Everything went as I had hoped.

We didn’t take long as it was cold and dark outside and we were anxious to be home with our children. Before we left I hung my lantern on the broken trunk of a fallen tree. The light from the lamp was warm and beautiful against the backdrop of a frigid, wintry night. 

I thought deeply that evening about what it means to be alone in the dark; how we must often walk by the dim lamp of faith and hope as we journey through our own wilderness of hardship and struggle. 

It is easy to talk of faith in the abstract, from a pulpit, citing other people’s words. But when life requires us to walk that dark mile, alone ... there is often a breathless silence. When it is our turn to truly suffer, and then take those first few steps into the pitch of night, faith takes on a different, more exacting meaning. 

Surely we may have people around us cheering us on, offering love and support. But they cannot bear the burden of the sufferer. They don't know, nor can they know, the horrors of the sufferers heart. And when the night comes, when we lay down to sleep, that is when the unfiltered horrors of loss and sorrow are ours and ours alone. As I wrote in an earlier post, "After all is said and done, the journey of grief is traveled by one." In my experience, going to sleep or waking up was when I was most alone in the dark.

Yet during my darkest moments … when I felt I was drowning in a rising tide of grief and sorrow, I would have subtle impressions and feelings of peace that defied my own understanding and soothed my weary soul. They didn’t take away my sorrow; they only gave me a measure of understanding and just enough strength to carry on a little further. 

I am no fanatic, but I believe that when this life is behind us, we will look back on our mortal moments of darkness and realize we were never truly alone in the dark … but that we were surrounded by beings of light we cannot yet see. We will come to know what ancient Elisha knew, “they that be with us” are far more than we realize. And were our eyes truly opened, we would see the mountains we once thought barren were in fact full. Helping us. Soothing us. Offering help and direction.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” The same could be said of spiritual light. We must carry it with us, however dimly, or we will see it not.

PROVIDENCE

We had a special visitor over the weekend whose circumstances in meeting us are more than coincidence. I have long wanted to do something special with Santa and Mitchell's Journey, and as providence would have it, the opportunity presented itself. I'll post this project before Christmas Eve.

When Santa entered Mitchell's room Marlie jumped on his bed, curious and cautiously protective ... for this was the sacred place she comforted Mitch when he passed away. To our family, there are few places more hallowed than this special room where I lost my son.

Santa was gentle and kind to this little tender mercy ... this little puppy, unaware the profound gift she was to our son and remains to our family. 

As I watched this tender exchange I had to fight back the tears because Mitch loved Santa and he loved Marlie. Somewhere between these two kind souls was my son: a gift I once held in my arms and now hold in my broken heart.

MITCHELL'S LAST CHRISTMAS

In the two years leading up to Mitchell's death, he would come up to me and say, "Dad, can I help you make a Christmas video?" He didn't know how to make graphics or edit video, so he would just sit next to me and talk while I put things together. Mitch would help direct the flow and wanted each video to end with a magic Christmas tree. I miss him being my co-pilot. 

I wish I had more time to do things like this, not because they're terribly interesting but because they're fun to make and they remind me of the time I spent with Mitch. Though clunky, this less-than-polished piece will have to do.

In this video you'll see a short update on our family. 

The opening narrative in the video reads:

Let me tell you a story this cold winter's eve ...
About a little family huddled together, long after the fallen leaves.
It's a simply story.
Not very profound.
Just a story of a family
And where love can be found.
So cuddle up and listen close, 
and well share some things we love the most.

At approximately 1:40 you will see clips and photos of Mitchell's last Christmas and the wonderful things people did to lift his heart and let him know he was loved. Those gifts of compassion and love were also gifts to our hearts, already in mourning. So, to all of you who reached out to him, we sincerely thank you. 

After that short piece on Mitch the video shifts attention to a much larger contemplation. It begins with the concept of darkness and grief and remembering to look past the darkness and to the heavens. For the heavens are vast and they are deep ... and many secrets do they keep. If we can scarcely comprehend the heavens we CAN see, perhaps we could have faith in the heaven we cannot yet see. 

The video concludes with a few more thoughts and an invitation to come with us on the journey ahead.

Our most sincere prayer this holiday season is that each of you who follow Mitchell's Journey, whether you comment or join conversations ... or simply watch and quietly listen; our prayer is that each of you will find joy in your life and that your own journeys will be blessed.

Though we grieve the loss of Mitch, we have found joy despite the pain. We are grateful for all that remains.

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For those who are curious to see the earlier videos you can visit our Christmas Channel here: vimeo.com/channels/852236

2014 Video: vimeo.com/114511333
2013 Video: vimeo.com/81968479
2012 Video: vimeo.com/55333684
2011 Video: vimeo.com/43011694