There is a saying that reads, “Do not teach your child to be rich. Teach him to be happy. So when he grows up, he’ll know the value of things, not the price.” I always loved this saying for many reasons and have tried to help my children appreciate the little things: soft pillows, macaroni and cheese, and blanket forts. After all, true value has little (if anything) to do with price –and the things of greatest value cannot be purchased with money. Not at any price.

Once I discovered this, the relationship between the highway and this canyon began to serve as something of a metaphor to me – a reminder that sometimes I can’t see a thing until I step back and look from a different vantage point.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

During his last summer of life, Mitch spent some long-awaited time at his grandmother’s ranch in Southern Utah. On this day life couldn't have been more awesome; the weather was perfect and glee was floating in the air like spring pollen. On the horizon, you could see the ancient fingers of Kolob Canyon which stood towering into the sky as a majestic reminder that our lives are but a blink and humans are only transients on this planet … this classroom of rock and water.

Before my mother moved to her ranch I drove by this canyon a thousand times, oblivious to the true beauty of the landscape I was passing. The highway hugs the mountain range and base of Kolob Canyon in such a way you cannot see it (not even a little bit) because the road is too close to it. Without the proper perspective, everything feels ordinary. But, if you take an exit near the canyon and get a little distance from the highway, you will see the most amazing mountain range. This canyon is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets – invisible to the casual traveler.

Once I discovered this, the relationship between the highway and this canyon began to serve as something of a metaphor to me – a reminder that sometimes I can’t see a thing until I step back and look from a different vantage point.

My experience with Mitch taught me the same thing. As I travel the long road of grief, when I step away from my sorrow and look upon the landscape of this experience from a different vantage point, I see beauty. I also see reminders this place is not home … that I, too, am a transient and will one day travel to a better place.

I love this photo because it reminds me Mitch lived a good life. If there were one image that best illustrated my son, this is it. Mitch was happy – not because of things, but because he was loved by his family and he discovered ways to find joy in everything. I have recently discovered many videos of my family where you can see Mitch skipping in the background (unaware he was on camera) because he was simply happy. Although the road he traveled was hard, and he could have found a million-and-one reasons to complain about life not being fair to him, he always stepped away from his limitations and appreciated life from a different vantage point. He saw the canyon.

While having lost my son has been a source of great sorrow, he is also a great source of inspiration to me. And though I walk imperfectly, I will learn from my little boy. Like Mitch, I will find a reason for glee. For indeed, as I step away and look upon my life differently, I can clearly see there is beauty all around me.

Thank you, Mitchie, for teaching me to be happy – to always find a reason for glee.


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I’ve experienced a lot of hard things in life – but nothing so hard as being a parent.  

On this night I took my kids to a restaurant; Natalie was at another function, so I was blessed with some one-on-one time with my kids.  At one point I said something that hurt my son’s feelings.  I don’t remember exactly what happened – I only remember he was sad.  When I realized I hurt his feelings my heart broke and I immediately fell to my knees, put my forehead against his and said, “Oh, Mitchie, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  Sometimes Daddy’s make mistakes – and they don’t mean to.  I love you, son.  How I love you…”

We spend our lives trying to grow up and out of things - and while growth is necessary, if we’re not mindful, sometimes we leave the best parts of us behind. 
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Perhaps nothing quite shows the nobility of children as their readiness to forgive and forget.  The irony of adulthood is that some hold grudges and try to inflict hurt on others.  But children … they are endlessly good.  No wonder it is said of them, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  Sadly, it is adults who bring hell on earth.  If only we could love and forgive as children do.  If only we could see the best in each other and forgive with loving hearts - oh, how the world might change.

So there I knelt at my son’s feet as; a painful fatherly confession was made, and a tender plea for his love and forgiveness was shared.  Mitch put his arms around my neck, and I hugged him tightly.  “I love you, little boy.  With all of my heart.”  Mitch whispered, “I love you too, Dad.”

Mitch was smiling again – and all was right with the world.  Later that night, Mitch and my other kids would snuggle in my arms on the couch as I read stories before bedtime – a tradition Natalie has upheld since our kids were infants.  Heaven seldom felt as close as it did that night.

I know I’m not the first parent to upset their child … and I certainly won’t be the last.  What I do know, is every time I stumbled I immediately tried to make it right.

I suppose the point of this post isn’t that I made mistakes and tried to recover; instead, I can’t help but think of the utter goodness of children and how much I have yet to learn from them.  I saw in my son this night a most pure and loving heart – something I will carry with me and forever try to be.

We spend our lives trying to grow up and out of things - and while growth is necessary, if we’re not mindful, sometimes we leave the best parts of us behind. 


Originally posted in 2015


I remember his tiny smile as he sat in a school bus for the first time.  Mitch was about to leave on a new adventure.  He didn’t know where he was going exactly, he only knew his mommy loved him and trusted she knew best.  Natalie kissed Mitch on the forehead and said in a whispered tone, “I love you, little boy.  I’ll see you at school.” 

This life is a heavenly classroom, clothed in mortal cares ... where we learn to trust in heaven while carrying hardships from here to there.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

As the big bus drove out of the neighborhood Natalie jumped in our minivan and followed them to the elementary school several miles away.  By the time the bus arrived at school, Natalie was there to help our little boy off the bus and usher him into class.  

To Mitch, the world was a very big place – made even bigger by his declining muscle strength.  A small staircase to you and me may as well be Mt. Everest to a child with DMD.  Mitch could be easily knocked down by a simple bump in a lunchroom.  Hallways made him nervous because a river of preoccupied people, in a rush to get some place, threatened to trample him unaware.

Natalie knew our son needed help, but wanted to stretch his horizons and help him grow.  So, she repeated the inconvenient routine of helping him board the bus each day and then follow him to school – where she would help him on and off the bus.  Natalie wanted our boy to learn independence.  And that he did. 

I loved this day.  I loved seeing my little boy smile at me through the window of the bus.  Mitch had this look on his face that seemed to say, “Look Dad!  I can do hard things.  I’m a big kid now.”  His eyes seemed to say, “I love you.”

I remember walking with Natalie and Mitch into his preschool class for the first time.  There he would meet “Mrs. Nancy.”  She was energetic and kind and had a way about her that brought instant relief to nervous parents and excitement in the minds of her students.  I loved her immediately.  I’ll write more of her another day – but I am grateful she was placed in our son’s path.  She was a tender mercy for our little boy.

In many ways, this image serves as a symbol of another journey.  Only this time Mitch has been shuttled to a place far from sight.  Sometimes I panic because the mortal father in me wants to know he’s alright.  Yet, I know he is fine – and in a heavenly sense, I realize he was never mine.   For Mitch is my brother, the son of my Father … even still, in his death, my mortal heart is still bothered.  For I love and miss him, you see.  And in my agony, I reach deeply for things heavenly.  Could it be that is the reason for suffering?

Somewhere out on the horizon is my son … or rather, my brother. He is at a school of another sort.  I cannot see it with my eyes … but I can feel it with my soul.  Though he may be learning and growing … I also believe he is here, even now, helping and showing. 

Now it is my turn, seated in a big and unfamiliar bus.  Like my son, – I have learned to listen and to trust. I know my Father loves me and believe that He knows best.  The wisest of all parents, He knows the growth that happens when we’re challenged and given tests.  This life is a heavenly classroom, clothed in mortal cares ... where we learn to trust in heaven while carrying hardships from here to there.  




Of all the things I loved about parenthood, one of the things I loved most was to watch my young children sleep. I remember vividly this hot August night as little Mitch dozed off. My heart melted as I saw him with his ice-cold sippy cup, Spiderman Jammies and his two favorite blankets. Softly he slept after getting a bundle of hugs and kisses from his mom and dad. He knew he was loved.

Though we were exhausted at the end of the day, parenthood never felt so rewarding. And though we were poor as church mice, life never seemed so abundant. A testament that people, not things, bring us some of life's greatest joys.

As I stared at my son, the humanist in me would marvel and say, “Wow, I helped make that little person.” The young parent in me said, “I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m afraid.” Yet the deepest part of me said, “I have never known a love such as this.” 

Though my pockets were empty, my cup was overflowing.



As Natalie lifted Mitch from the floor, she looked intensely at the Milrinone pump to ensure it was still giving him the life-lengthening drug. Mitch, having lost his balance, leaned back only to find his loving mother's arm to keep him safe.

Unaware the mortal trouble he faced, Mitch looked down at his furry friends and wished he could roll around with them like they did with each other. This sweet little boy had attached a small stuffed animal to a string of yarn so he could dangle it from a chair. His back muscles were too weak to bend over, were he to try to pick the toy up from the ground. Little Mitch discovered other ways to squeeze a little more life out of life.

If children only knew what they do for parents ... sometimes I wonder who really raises who. Though we teach our kids how to walk and talk, they teach us about what really matters in life. It is something of a paradox that it takes a child to show us how to grow up. 


True to the Make-A-Wish tradition, Mitch had just thrown his coin into the wishing pond. I don’t know what he wished, but whatever it was, I hope he got it. 

Everything seemed surreal back then. Mitch appeared so normal at the time and the effects of DMD were all but invisible to the untrained eye. We almost felt guilty going on a Make-a-Wish trip because he wasn’t profoundly sick … yet. But we saw the storm clouds on the horizon, we knew what was coming and decided to make the most of what strength he had. The decision to go when we did was a blessing in disguise.

After little Mitch threw his coin in the water I sat on the edge of the pond then grabbed my son and gave him a big hug and kiss. Wyatt wanted in on the love and I hugged and kissed him, too. Not a day passes that I don’t show and tell my kids how much I love them. Not a single day.

Mitch was a little overwhelmed by all that was happening. As far as he was concerned, he was pretty-much normal and he wondered why everyone was making such a fuss about him. But Mitch didn’t know what the doctors knew – that the path that lay at my son’s feet would soon become treacherous and one day his path would end. 

When I was younger and envisioned my future, my heart wasn’t set on having a big home or fancy cars; I just wanted children to call my own. I wanted to be a father. I have had many professional titles in my life and none of them mean as much to me as father. I would sooner hear the word “Dad” from my children’s voices than any title or accolade the world could offer. I would give up everything I have if that meant I could be a father to Mitch for one more day. 

There is a saying that goes: “the real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” When I look at my wife and children I feel like I’m the wealthiest man on earth. And if love is a measure of real wealth, than I am rich indeed – and I will spend the rest of my life sharing my love in word and deed.


Last summer Ethan got a little motorcycle to tool around on. He loved the sport and his thoughtful mother arranged to surprise Ethan for his birthday. We did a great job selling Ethan that he’d never get one because it was too dangerous, etc. He had given up asking for one – which made the surprise all the sweeter. With the help of some amazing neighbors who helped source and assemble the motorcycle (thank you Seth Lloyd), Ethan had the surprise of his life.

Little Wyatt, who is now fast approaching the age of Mitch when he passed away, was so excited for his brother. Though he was anxious to enjoy a gift he never thought he’d get, Ethan looked at Wyatt’s big eyes and said, “Do you want a ride?” Wyatt smiled with delight as his older brother handed him his helmet. Carefully they drove down our cul-de-sac and as Wyatt carried with him an enormous grin. These are the kind of days parents live for. To see your child find joy is one thing, but to see your child give joy to another is altogether different. That is a satisfaction of a deeper sort. If I find deep joy in watching my own children love and lift another, how might our Father feel about us doing the same to each other?

Ethan has told me on several occasions that he wants to use the lessons he’s learned from his fallen brother to help others. At 14 years of age, he reads Mitchell’s Journey all the time and comes back to me with ideas, insights and self-discoveries. Sometimes I cry when I reflect on the things he says – for tender mercies abound. 

Ethan has learned to put his arm around Wyatt like he did Mitch. Every day he is shaping his little brother through kindness and brotherly mentorship. Oh, they’re not perfect. They’re just like any young brothers who tease and fight – they take things too far and their arguments sometimes seem to go on too long. They both have their strengths and growth opportunities, like all of us do. But the point isn’t that they stumble, but rather how they get back up again. Their forgiveness isn’t conditional. I love that.

To young Wyatt, on this warm summer afternoon, his older brother was a super brother-turned superhero. He inspired me just as much as his little brother.