Posts tagged Marlie
THE SEARCH FOR PEACE

Little Mitch was tucked in for the night.  We had just celebrated an early birthday, at his request and he was tired and in need of rest.  No sooner had he closed his eyes than Natalie softly kissed him on the cheek, one more time.   Death was coming fast and we had reached a time when we didn’t know if any moment would be our last moment. 

If I search for meaning first, peace and understanding follow.  If I search for peace without meaning, what I find is fleeting and hollow.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

In the shadow of her kiss was baby Marlie, anxious to cuddle and keep Mitch company as he slept.  Sensing something was wrong, Mitch had become afraid of the dark so he asked his mom to keep the light outside his room on and his door opened a crack.  A little light and his puppy was all he needed.

Though we were going through hell at the time, we also experienced moments of supernal peace.  As death came closer, so did Heaven and unseen angels – bearing up our broken souls.  Several months prior, I could feel the sun setting on Mitchell’s life … and though there was a great sorrow in my heart, there was a certain beauty and peace, too.  A peace that doesn’t come from this place.  It is as real as anything I know – and it tells me there is more to life than my eyes behold.    

In my experience, the search for peace is coupled with the search for meaning.  If I search for meaning first, peace and understanding follow.  If I search for peace without meaning, what I find is fleeting and hollow.

 

PEACE COMES FROM WHAT WE SEE

I knew time was short and midnight was near. Death was coming, and all I had was the moments that remained. How many moments left was impossible to know.

The ice upon which Mitch tread was terribly thin. His cardiologist said he was at risk of sudden death; so not a moment passed that I didn’t worry that very second might be my last. When I peered into my tender son’s eyes, all I could hear was the cracking of the ice beneath him.

“Dad, will you watch a movie with me?” Mitch said softly. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I replied, “I would love to, son.” Mitch grabbed his tiny puppy and whispered, “We can put Marlie between us and both cuddle with her.”

I believe one of our purposes in life isn’t to avoid pain and sorrow, but to grow stronger because of it. It would seem that life’s greatest virtues are born of struggle – not leisure. So, at least for me, I have learned to focus less on the pain and more on the purpose.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Oh, we cuddled that night. We cuddled like we were the last two people on earth, bracing for a meteor to wipe us out. As Mitch snuggled into my chest, Marlie rested between us, ever faithful to her sick friend. Little Mitch was soon caught up in the movie … and as much as I wanted to enjoy the movie, I could not. All I could think about was the cracking ice and the deep, dark waters below. Tears streamed down my face, and my heart ached in ways I never imagined. I had never known such sorrow.

I remember saying a prayer in my heart in search of comfort, “Father, where is your hand in all of this suffering? Please, give me eyes to see. I have faith in you. I believe.” I learned years ago that “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.” And that, “Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” The moment I discovered that truth, my prayers became more personal. More genuine. More effective.

The answers I was looking for didn’t come all at once. Peace would come and go like the ocean tide – and I was not spared from sorrow, neither was Mitch spared from death. But peace would come and give us a measure of rest. And when it came to having eyes to see, my eyes were opened, but slowly. Like mortal eyes, my spiritual eyes needed time to adjust – but soon I began to see tender mercies that I was previously blind to see.

I am no fanatic or a zealot, but there are some things I know, and I know them for sure. I know that despite our suffering in this life, we are never left alone … though we may be tempted to feel that way from time-to-time. God is never surprised or caught off-guard by the events that unfold in our lives. In fact, I’m convinced that Heaven walks before us and paves the way for tender mercies – so that we might find comfort in our hardships. But hardships are essential to our spiritual growth.

I believe one of our purposes in life isn’t to avoid pain and sorrow, but to grow stronger because of it. It would seem that life’s greatest virtues are born of struggle – not leisure. So, at least for me, I have learned to focus less on the pain and more on the purpose.

I miss this little boy. Though I would have done anything to keep Mitch with me, I have discovered things I did not previously see. The gift of sight, to see things right, is something I don’t take lightly. Peace, it seems, doesn’t come from things … it comes from what we see.

I WILL WALK BESIDE YOU

Everything was falling apart. Mitchell’s vitals were on a steady and quick decline and all he wanted to be was a kid.

Death was clawing at our door and would soon find its way in. We had reached a point where we began to administer powerful drugs to mask the pain of organ failure. He was already on medication that erased from the mind oxygen hunger; else he would have felt out of breath, as though he were vaguely suffocating. With each dose of these new drugs, Mitch became more and more sleepy.

I marveled at how she became a pillar of strength for my son and family. When I was a jellyfish, she was made of carbyne.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

We were in the middle of a dilemma: we wanted every minute we could have with Mitch, but we didn’t want him to suffer. To withhold medication so he would remain awake would have been selfish on our part, and would have caused our little boy pain. In order to spare Mitch unimaginable agony, we had to let go of what we wanted so that he wouldn’t suffer.

Mitch began to realize his medicine was making him sleepy, so he started to resist each dose because he wanted to be awake. He wanted to live his life – for he was glad to be alive. With tears running down our faces, we would explain to Mitch that the medicine would keep him from hurting. “But I just want to be awake. I just want to live,” Mitch would say in a soft, breathless tone. Then, not wanting to suffer, he would then take his next dose of pain medication and fall into a deeper sleep than the time before.

I can’t count the number of times I knelt, with bruised knees, at the side of Mitchell’s bed pleading with our Father to spare my son. And if he would not be spared, I begged that He would help my little boy to not feel scared or alone … that he would be given a measure of peace and understanding beyond his young years.

I also prayed that my Father would strengthen my feeble back so that I might learn to carry what I must. A weaker man he could not have chosen to bear this burden … for I was then, and remain today, imperfect and flawed. I didn’t feel capable of carrying such things.

So as I sat across Mitchell’s room, I witnessed two tender mercies that served as an answer to my prayers. Just after his dose of medicine, baby Marlie placed her head on Mitchell’s lap, ever offering tender affections. Natalie, my dear wife, sat softly next to Mitch and comforted him with a love only a mother can give. With her every gesture, it was as if she said, “Sweet boy, don’t be afraid, I will walk beside you.” I marveled at how she became a pillar of strength for my son and family. When I was a jellyfish, she was made of carbyne.

In this very moment, I suddenly saw life through heaven’s eyes. Though I witnessed my little boy suffering the effects of being mortal, I also saw two angels who walked beside my son … tender mercies from a Heavenly Father who loved and cared about Mitch. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and understanding.

Losing my son has forced me to dig deep. Yet, this hardship didn’t weaken my faith, it strengthened it and rooted out the stuff that got in the way. Despite the darkness of death and the weight of grief … which has been soul-crushing … I am a personal witness to tender mercies. They exist. They are as real as anything I know.

Though I am still blind and weak, I have a Father who patiently walks beside me … ever generous with tender mercies. I pray every day that I will have eyes to see. For if He was there for Mitch, it might very well be that He is doing the same for you and for me.

EARS TO HEAR & EYES TO SEE

“Dad … can I sit by you?” Mitch said softly. It was mid-January and I was working from home that day. “Sure Mitch! I love it when you’re near me.” I then patted my hand on an extra chair, inviting him to sit with me. Mitch sat down holding his baby puppy close to his chest. Marlie looked at me as she snuggled deep into his arms. Mitch thought himself blessed to have a furry friend like Marlie. 

I turned my camera toward Mitch and he just stared into the lens. He didn’t try to posture himself for a photo – he did exactly what I always wanted … absolutely nothing. You see, Mitchie knew I wanted to capture moments unrehearsed … I wanted to capture life, not the imitation of it. So, Mitch gave me the moment. 

His almond eyes and soft expression my heart melted. In this same moment he gave me a curious look as if to say, “Dad, something’s wrong.” He didn’t need to say any words – I sensed it, too. Like a cold wind from the north, I felt a brooding sense that we were on the edge of a great and terrible change and my soul began to shiver. At the time, I didn’t know what was about to happen, I just knew something hard was coming. How hard, I knew not. For almost 2 years this feeling was growing. Looking back, I believe heaven warned me and helped me make the most of time I might have otherwise squandered.

As death drew closer, Mitch would begin to ask me deep questions about the purpose of life, death and what happens when we die. At the tender age of 10, an age that he should have been playing with toys, he faced the stuff of philosophers and theologians. He wanted to understand what too many adults often dismiss for cheaper thrills. 

In less than 6 weeks from this photo, Mitch would lay on his bed unable to open his eyes or speak as his body was shutting down. It is frightening to think how quickly our worlds can be turned upside down and inside out.

This same puppy who was at first frightened to be away from her mother, received great comfort from Mitch, and would soon return the favor with honor. The night he was slipping away, she would use her nose to lift his hand and nestle under his palm as if she knew he needed to touch her. Though he couldn’t open his beautiful eyes, he could move his fingers slightly. So, there on the side of this sacred bed, I filmed Mitchell’s tender fingers running softly through her baby coat. Eventually, when the end was upon Mitch, this little puppy curled around his head on his pillow. Then, within an hour, my baby boy slipped away.

I am a simple, flawed man and I don’t know much; but I know a few things for sure. One thing I know is, we are not alone. I know it all the way to the marrow of my bones. The moment I first laid eyes on newborn Mitch, my Father warned me with a distinct impression something was wrong. That impression persisted for three years until his diagnosis. Then, almost 2 years before he passed away, my Father returned and began to stir my soul with a great uneasiness. I didn’t know all that He was trying to tell me, I only knew He was preparing me for a spiritual winter. A time where darkness would become my home. Then, as my spiritual eyes began to adjust to the darkness of grief, I began to see little flecks of light … little tender mercies. Though I was in hell, I saw evidence of heaven and a Father who cared.

Yes, my heart is still broken and my soul is weary with grief. I long to find my son so that my mind might find some relief. My soul searches as if he were lost in some great wilderness. But alas, it is not he that is lost, but me. So I journey through the wilderness in search of heaven. I pray for ears to hear and eyes to see. Somewhere, out there, my little son waits for me.