THANKS TO YOU

As many of our followers know, we had a fundraiser earlier this spring which enabled #mitchellsjourneyto help other families affected by muscular dystrophy, as well as support programs that help kids and parents alike. Among the program's we have sponsored, we donated $2,000 to MDA to sponsor a fishing and swimming excursion at this year's summer camp. 

Mitchell loved swimming and fishing, so sponsoring these activities was a perfect opportunity to help boys in memory of our own. These fishing and swimming programs spread over the two week camp for both young and old DMD participants. 

IMAGE ON LEFT
As I was taking photos Natalie pointed to this young boy fishing. He reminded us of little Mitch in so many ways. From the way he spoke out loud (to himself), to his facial expressions, we saw our little son. My heart broke and melted all at the same time.

IMAGE AT CENTER
These are just a few of the young children that got to participate in the swimming program. Nothing was so rewarding as to see these young children who struggle to walk and play like regular children suddenly enjoy a sense of weightlessness and freedom by playing in the water. I think that is one of the many reasons Mitchell loved to swim.

IMAGE ON RIGHT
This was my sweet wife sitting by the pool watching the children play. Though she wanted her little son there, it brought her some comfort to help other children enjoy activities our son could not.

Thank you to everyone that supported our Miles for Mitchell run earlier this year. Thanks to you, because of your support, we've been blessed with opportunities to serve other families that struggle. We'll post those stories soon.

GRIEF MADE EASIER

It is interesting how grief is made easier when you set aside your own sorrows to help another. Somehow, some way, it hurts a little less. Oh, don't get me wrong; grief is the heaviest burden I know ... it wrenches soul, springs the deepest of tears and makes for the blackest of nights - but I have found service is a candle in all that darkness. Though I weep for Mitch, my heart is full to think that others may be helped a little. Though grief isn't gone, it is a little easier to bear.

We're learning as we go. Though, early on, just after my son's passing, I had high hopes to do more and raise money for this cause faster. What I had hoped to happen didn't. I think my Father is teaching me something ... and I'm trying to listen. In the meantime, we won't stop trying to find our path and help others along the way. 

Natalie's heart was so full this morning. She cries quietly every day for Mitch - so I was glad to see her find joy in serving others. Seen also in this photo [on the right] are two of Natalie's dearest friends who have been an integral part of our charity run. We owe them, and our other committee members, a debt of gratitude.

We're excited to make our first announcement that we will be supporting MDA of Utah's Summer Camp this year. Because of your generous donations and involvement with Miles for Mitchell, we were able to donate $2,000 to MDA of Utah this year so young children can go swimming and fishing (two of Mitchie's favorite things to do).

While it may not sound like much, these boys don't have much time to be children. Before they know it, these young boys (and some girls) will find themselves unable to walk, use their arms or neck and will find their world of possibilities rapidly shrinking.
While others organizations are racing to find a cure (which we fully support), we are racing to give these children a life before it gets taken away.

We hope that the children who attend this year's activity will have warm memories to lift their hearts when life gets difficult for them.

We'll be announcing more of what we're doing this year with the proceeds of the run to help Parent Project MD and other DMD families in the coming weeks. 

Because your involvement has empowered us to help others, you have helped in our own grieving process - because as we serve, we heal. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for loving. Thank you for caring.

Miles for Mitchell on Instagram
instagram.com/milesformitchell/

Mitchell's Journey on Instagram
instagram.com/mitchells_journey/

MDA WALK

On Saturday we attended an MDA Muscle walk. I was so moved to see families of all kinds desperately trying to help the fight against muscular dystrophy. 

On one level, it was difficult to be there because we wanted our son to be with us and we were reminded he wasn’t. On the other hand it was wonderful to be there because we met some families we have long wanted to meet. In fact, we’re going to spotlight one of those families at our Miles for Mitch Virtual Run on April 25th. If you haven’t yet, please consider joining our run virtually or in person: https://www.raceentry.com/race-reviews/miles-for-mitchell

You can learn about our goals for our virtual run here: http://tinyurl.com/mtj84pb

We didn’t need to be there – but we chose to be there because we care very much about these families who hurt and struggle. Our hearts were full of love and compassion for these kind families who face an uncertain and difficult future.

Natalie's sister, Sonya, also came with us to show her support. She was Mitchell's second mother and loved him as if he were her own. 

At the end of the run Wyatt turned to his mom and said, “Going to this really made my day.” I felt a lump in my throat as I thought about how much Wyatt cares about others and only wants to honor his older brother by loving and supporting others.

I remember the morning Mitch passed away when I wrote "Mitchell's Journey is not over: it has only just begun ... in this life and the life after."

Two years later I am here to say that statement is as true today as it was then. 

Mitchell's Journey is just getting started. This journey, while borne of grief and sorrow has morphed into a journey of love, faith and a hope for tomorrow. It's not my journey, I've come to see, its the journey of humanity - which is, indeed, a heavenly family. 

I read your messages and I weep for your sorrows. Often, I fall to my knees in gratitude when I read your words of renewed faith and healing. All of you are so amazing. I read your messages and I wish I could respond personally to all of them, but cannot. However, you are all in my prayers, that your backs may be strengthened and burdens feel light .... and for those who walk in darkness, that you'll see an end to the night.

THE LUCKY ONE

A few years had passed since Mitchell’s diagnosis. We were committed to living a normal life as long as possible; we knew that all-too-soon DMD would take normal away from us and we weren't going to let the disease rob us of today … for tomorrow would come all too quickly. We knew that we would never have now again.

It was a hot summer day when we drove to a fire station and introduced Mitch to the men who worked there. We explained to the firefighters our son had DMD and suddenly these strong men, who were wrapped in muscle and deep tans instantly had a look of compassion on their faces. They went from men of brawn and bravery to fathers who loved and cared. They invited us in and were so kind to our son and family. We told Mitch that not only did these brave men save people and property from fires, they were also trying to save him [and many children like him] from Muscular Dystrophy. I told little Mitch these men are the ones we see with boots in-hand at intersections to collect donations. I remember getting a little emotional as I described what these firemen did to help my sweet boy. Mitch smiled quietly as I kissed his cheek. I miss kissing his cheek.

It didn't take long for these good men to put a little firefighter jacket and helmet on Mitch. The posture of my son’s little hands told me a silent story about how he was feeling at the moment. I could tell he felt timid and awkward receiving so much attention, yet his face told me he felt special. If only he knew how special he was to his mother and me – but alas, a child can never understand the depth of a parent’s love until they become one. Even then, they only comprehend the love they then have for their little ones.

Before long these kind firemen lifted Mitch into one of their fire trucks and described how everything worked. Little Mitch was fascinated. 

As we drove home that day Mitch looked out the window with a smile on his face as though he were lucky to have had that experience. I kept looking back at him through the rear-view mirror and couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be his dad. I could tell that experience made him feel special – and that made my heart swell. I believe everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. Everyone. 

I couldn't help but feel gratitude for my wife who always looks for ways to expand our children’s horizons and encourages them to experience new things. If it weren't for her diligence as a parent, this experience may have never happened.

There isn't a day that passes that I don’t borrow Mitchell’s words and say to myself, “I’m the lucky one.” Though my legs are weak under the crushing weight of grief, I find myself with treasures of the soul, so-to-speak. When I think of my sweet son and my attempts to rescue him – I can’t help but recognize how he has rescued me. I’m the lucky one.

EYES TO SEE

A few years ago we took Mitch to an MDA camp. He always had mixed feelings about going because he didn't like being away from home. It was also hard for him to see other children who were much further along the devastating path of DMD. 

Over the years I learned to pay close attention to Mitch. Though quiet around people he didn't know, he always left breadcrumbs that told me he was thinking and feeling more deeply than he would lead others to believe. My experience with Mitch taught me how to hear what was never said aloud and to see what was often invisible to others. Learning to hear and see things that weren't obvious helped me love and serve my son and for that I am grateful.

So, as Natalie stood in line to register Mitch for MDA camp I was taking photos of … everything. Amidst the chaos of checking in I saw a young boy pass by whose muscle deterioration was more advanced than Mitchell’s. Mitch was polite enough not to stare, but he did notice this young boy out of the corner of his eye. As this young man passed I could see Mitchell’s head following him gently until the boy was behind him and out of view. Mitch then looked out the window pondering deeply, trying to make sense of things.

It was on this day I began to see Mitchell’s true eyes: eyes that read between the lines, see through the superficial … eyes that discern. Little Mitch was beginning to see. It was after this moment that I began to notice an awakening in Mitch. And, over the following months and years I had an unshakable feeling that he was being prepared for a significant change. Just before we learned of Mitchell’s failing heart I remember telling some who were close to me that I had a brooding sense something unusual was happening and that my son was undergoing a spiritual change; a quickening of sorts. I couldn't put my finger on it, I just knew something was happening. My eyes, too, were beginning to see.

Last February, as Natalie and I were driving Mitch home from one of his last excursions he said, “I will never get well. I will never get better. I know I will die.” At the time Mitch didn't know how close he was to death, but he was beginning to sense that something was happening. Swallowing my emotions I calmly responded, “Son, we all die. That is the price of life. But you, and I … and everyone else … will continue to live after our bodies are laid to rest. What really matters it is what we do with our time, and you my sweet son have done great things. You are a good, good boy and I’m so proud of you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, let’s live for today and do the best we can, okay?” Mitch nodded his head and we began to talk about the next Lego base we were going to build. 

Since that exchange in the car Natalie and I had a few other sacred conversations with our son during the weeks leading up to his passing. The closer Mitch came to death the more I started to see in him an adult soul clothed in a 10-year-olds broken body. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish what I saw with my mortal eyes from what I was beginning to see with my spiritual eyes. 

I remember telling Mitch at one point “You are not your body. We are so much more than we can see with our mortal eyes.” Mitchell’s countenance told me he was not only absorbing my words, he was beginning to see things as they really are … that life doesn't end with death. 

Author Dean Koontz wrote, “Intuition is seeing with the soul.” I love that. 

And, over the years I have noticed that without intuition, without eyes to see, it is easy to get wrapped up in the thick of thin things. When I look back on my experience with my son I can see that while Mitchell’s spiritual eyes were opening, so were mine. 

With all that was happening I realized then [and now] that Mitchell’s soul is older than I know. But I miss my 10-year-old. So very much. What I wouldn't do for one more day, one more hour, one more second with my boy. 

And while my mortal eyes are clouded with tears - ever searching for my son - I have other eyes that see past the sorrow. Eyes that see clearly. Eyes to see.