Posts tagged On Coming Alive
A LIFETIME

I took this photo at a family function today and was overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude for my wife and kids - at the same time, I felt an empty longing for little Mitch. What I’ve learned on my grief journey is that I can be happy and sad at the same time, restless and still, empty but full.

More than anything, I am in a place of peace and acceptance for all that there is, all that ever was, and everything that is yet to be.

I have more stories of tender Mitch I want to share - but I’ve spent the last few months focused on my family. Healing from the loss of a child, it turns out, takes more than a little time ... it appears to take a lifetime.

#mitchellsjourney #makeeverydaycount

IN THE CLASP OF OUR HANDS

This happened almost 4 years ago. It was the first of November as we went to a local park as a family. The day had drawn to a close, and we could tell winter was just around the corner. The grass was cold to the touch … about to go into its deep, yellow sleep for the winter. As the sun set behind the mountains, the evening air had a familiar, wintery chill. We were excited to go home and make hot chocolate and sit by our fireplace to warm up.

Just moments before I took this photo, Mitch breathed deeply through his nose, as if he tried to smell the entire earth at once. He exhaled and said, “Dad, Fall smells so good.” Mitch loved the earthy smell of fallen leaves and was grateful to be alive. I smiled softly and reached down to hold his hand. At the same time, he reached up to hold mine – it was as though we knew what each other needed at that moment.

Though I didn’t exactly know Mitch was about to die, I sensed death was near in the same way I could sense the season about to change. Mitch didn’t exactly know his time was short, but he sensed it, too. This was an unseen tender mercy, for our loving Father softly nudged us to be in the moment because the hour was later than we knew.

Little Mitch had just watched teenagers perform tricks at a skate park. This night was the first time I ever heard him wish for something he didn’t have. He said, “Dad, I wish I could be like regular kids and do the things they do.” Though Mitch wanted to be a healthy boy, he was just grateful to be alive. And I was grateful to be his father.

I am grateful for warm moments like the one you see here. I store them up in my heart for times of trouble; and when sorrow and disappointment come, as they surely will, I am reminded of life’s good things.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

This was one of those moments in life where I deeply appreciated what I had in the clasp of my hands. Not just Mitch, either. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my wife and all of my children. Each of them was so dear to my heart, and my cup was overflowing that night.

Though we would soon sit by a crackling fireplace that night and drink warm things … my soul was already stirred with feelings of love and gratitude. There was no winter that could chill my heart.

I am grateful for warm moments like the one you see here. I store them up in my heart for times of trouble; and when sorrow and disappointment come, as they surely will, I am reminded of life’s good things.

If ever I’ve stumbled in life, I believe it has been because I didn’t fully appreciate what I already had in the clasp of my hands. What we clasp with our hands says a lot about what’s in our heart. If I cling to material things, there is my heart, also. If I hang on to distractions or things that waste time, that has a measure of my heart, too. I wish I could say I clasp on to all the right things … but I am human and I make mistakes. But I've learned to view my mistakes as teachers, not tormentors. When I stumble, I bounce right back, shake it off and keep trying.

For all my mistakes in life, all I know is this night I got it right. There, within the clasp of my hand, was a tender son who needed reassurance. Around me were my wife and other children, each of whom I loved and adored – and though I wasn’t holding their hand at this moment, emotionally they knew I had them in my hand and my heart.

Rose Marie Whiteside wrote, “You will make mistakes, change your mind later on the wisdom of a decision, and hope to find better ways of doing something, but if you outline your values and determine the links to those values, the errors won’t count.”

I love this statement. I believe in it, too. Mistakes matter less if we know we value and try to live true.

NOT A DAY GOES BY

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think of Mitch a thousand times.  On my commute to-and-from work I drive with him in my mind.  Sometimes I imagine him sitting next to me in my car, like he used to, when he would have a father/son day at work.  I want to reach out my hand toward that empty chair and hold his – but he is not there.  Nor will he ever be.  For he has gone from this place and my heart is changed because of it. 

To be stuck WITH grief is to carry our sorrows as we move forward in life. It is to have our backs made stronger as we climb to new heights, while we shoulder the weight of sorrow. To be stuck IN grief is to be tethered, as though we were chained to a boulder … circling our pain again, and again, and again.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

I used to cry all day.  In the beginning, while I was at work and when meetings were over, I would often go outside and salt the earth with my tears.  Sometimes I could hardly breathe.  Save this blog, I kept my sorrow to myself – hiding my broken heart behind a soft smile and a warm handshake. 

At night, I would look at my pillow with a measure of fear … for that space between sleep and wake terrified me.  It was during that transition to-and-from sleep I would experience the loss of Mitch all over again. Sometimes that unfiltered grief was so raw, it would startle me to the point I couldn’t go back to sleep.  For that reason, I was afraid of the night. 

I think it’s safe to say I have been to hell and back.  What matters, I suppose, is that I’m back.  I am grateful to say I am no longer in hell, though grief will sometimes sweep me back to hell from time-to-time.

Not a day goes by Natalie and I don’t talk about our little boy.  We remember his goodness and the lessons he taught us.  We think back on his sense of humor and his tender soul; and when we talk about Mitch, we often do it with warm hearts and a feeling of gratitude. 

Each day is met with memories and a tender longing for our son.  That is what children do to parents … they become the better parts of us and if they are taken away, we spend the remainder of our days in search of that which was lost. 

I often hear people reference others as being “stuck in grief.”  It is a label sometimes carelessly handed out by those who often know very little of grief themselves.  Yet, I have thought a great deal about what that means – at least to me.  When I think of the word stuck, I think of something that is immovable.   When it comes to the loss of a child, grief is a chronic, life-long condition.  Grief isn’t something you experience, like the flu, and move on.  Grief alters every part of you.  You become a spiritual amputee and you must learn to live without a once vital part of your heart and soul.

So, in a manner of speaking, I suppose I am stuck WITH grief – but that doesn’t mean I am stuck IN grief.  I cannot restore the loss of my son any more than an amputee can regenerate a missing limb.  But I can learn and adapt to my new reality and grow – and therein lies the difference, I believe.  To be stuck WITH grief is to carry our sorrows as we move forward in life. It is to have our backs made stronger as we climb to new heights, while we shoulder the weight of sorrow.  To be stuck IN grief is to be tethered, as though we were chained to a boulder … circling our pain again, and again, and again. 

I am not circling, I am climbing - and when I write of grief, I speak of that which I’m carrying … not that which I’m circling.

Mitch was the better part of me.  A million times over, he was everything I could ever hope to be.  Not a day goes by I don’t fall to my knees and thank Heaven for giving Mitch to me.  Because of him, I see things differently.  I am a different me.