Posts tagged Seasonal_October

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 especially warm and the evening sun warmed our skin as if from a distant fireplace.

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

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.  Trying to climb up a neighbor’s stairs to knock on their door was exhausting for him.  The year prior, he just parked on each driveway 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.


Fall was almost in full swing when Natalie and I took our kids to a nearby park.  We decided to visit one of the older parks, where the trees were mature, and blankets of earthy leaves covered the ground.   

I can’t do much about trouble, but I can find ways to rise above it and be grateful for life. 
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Mitch was known to do a funny, signature skip and hop when he was happy.  I’ll share a video of that soon.  Because his muscles were growing weaker each day, his happy skip became more uncoordinated and labored as time went on.  That never stopped him from doing it, however.  In fact, as his body grew weaker, his sense of happiness seemed to grow stronger.  I always enjoyed watching him at the park; sometimes, in the distance, Mitch would have a conversation with himself, then suddenly it was as though he was struck by a bolt of joy and he began skipping out of the blue.

On this occasion, when Mitch tried to skip, his legs gave out, and he fell.  Ethan, his older brother, quickly reached down to see if Mitch was okay and offered to help him up.  My heart swelled with gratitude for my family and the lessons of love and service my children continually taught me.  At that moment, I was overcome with an impression that despite the hardship our family was facing, Heaven was using that experience to help shape us – not just Mitch, but all of us.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched my surviving children cope with grief in their own, unique way.  It has been a difficult and sometimes dark, treacherous journey.  I don’t write about those experiences because I respect my children’s privacy – but I will say, it hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes the grief journey was made more difficult by outsiders meddling, other times our grief was made complicated by inexperienced psychologists, forever shutting the door of a young mind in need of that kind of help.  In my book, which will be completed soon, I share some of the challenges we faced and what we learned because of it.  I hope it helps others who navigate their journey with loss as we share a kind of “if we could do [certain things] over, we’d do this differently” observations.

I wish weren’t so, but our troubles after Mitch passed were just beginning, and we had to navigate a labyrinth of issues that were as complex as they were bewildering.  During that difficult time, I remembered F. Scott Fitzgerald observation on the difference between trouble and discouragement, “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement. Discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.” 

I am certainly not immune to discouragement – and sometimes trouble stirs those feelings up.  But when I remember Mitch, who never let his troubles make him feel discouraged, I’m reminded to step back and recognize that trouble is only temporary.  Discouragement, if not managed, can become a chronic condition.

As I consider this tender moment between little brothers – I’m reminded that no matter my troubles, I can step back and find gratitude for something.  In fact, I can find gratitude for many things.  Anymore, I’m beginning to see that it’s not trouble that weighs us down … it’s discouragement.   

I can’t do much about trouble, but I can find ways to rise above it and be grateful for life. 

NEW MJT_A Not-So-Ordinary Treasure.jpg

Today Natalie was helping me clean and organize my office at work. I love her for always helping me.

She stumbled into a little drawer that I hadn’t opened in a few years. Among the many little treasures found therein was an unopened pack of grape bubblegum that expired in 2013. I immediately remembered the circumstances surrounding that little pack of gum. It was October 29, 2012 ... the day Mitchell came to work with me before we went to the hospital to check on his heart. We went to the grocery store, and he said, “Dad, can I get that gum? I just love grape bubblegum.“ I knew time was short with him, so I was eager to help him enjoy things I often take for granted.

As we returned to the office, Mitch sat at my desk and began playing Minecraft on my laptop. He handed me the unopened pack of gum and said, “Dad, will you put this in a safe place? I’ll eat this next time I come to work with you.” I had all but forgotten about this experience until Natalie shared the expiration date with me and pointed to the little cubby drawer where she found it.

I suppose feeling more gratitude than grief is evidence that I’m healing and growing a little.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

My heart was awash with feelings of love and appreciation for Mitch. I didn’t feel grief ... instead, I felt gratitude for having that little boy in my life. I then thought to place this in a little treasure box I have dedicated for special memories of my son. It’s not a shrine; it’s a journal. Not all journal entries are made with pen and paper.

Little Mitch never made it back to work with me. His little treat/treasure was all but forgotten in the dark shadows of a lonely drawer.

Certainly, he was not forgotten, but this little treat he set his heart to enjoy had slipped away into the shadows and out of mind. Until today.

I did not feel any measure of grief over this little treasure and memory of Mitch. Instead, I felt gratitude and feelings of profound love for a little boy that who enriched my heart and soul. I suppose feeling more gratitude than grief is evidence that I’m healing and growing a little. Yet, in this very moment, I must admit that my heart suddenly feels pangs of sorrow. That’s okay because I know healing hurts.