My life is far from perfect. Over the past 3 years my life has been a continuous roller coaster of emotions. I try to laugh and most days I find a reason to smile but every so often I get in a slump and I feel sorry for myself. I’m human. Do you ever have one of those moments when you look around and you feel naked, like you’re the only one in the whole world who is struggling? I was having one of those pity parties a few weeks ago when a 10-year-old boy, whom I never met, brought me back to reality. His story has helped me and he doesn’t even know it. I feel like God drops strangers into our lives on purpose. I’m learning to pay attention to them.
His name is Mitchell Jones. Mitchell is a handsome little devil who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). His story popped up on the Facebook news feed a few weeks ago. My high school friend Emily has a little boy, Jake, with the same disease and she shared Mitchell’s story. I am so glad that she did because he touched my life deeply.
I started reading his story on February 28th. On this particular day Mitchell’s health took a nose dive and there was a photo of Mitchell’s mother kneeling at his bedside comforting him. She looked helpless and distraught. The painful memories of waiting helpless next to my baby’s incubator in the NICU came flooding back to me. My heart ached for this family. I know the pain of a critically ill child. I, like the 80 thousand people following Mitchell’s story, wanted to do something to ease the pain for this family. None of it makes any sense. In an effort to support this family, I shared their story on my Facebook page. Perhaps it would touch someone else the way it touched me. Isn’t that what life is about? Shouldn’t everyone be able to make a difference in this world? Many read his story. A few had nice things to say. A few could not finish because they were too heartbroken and a few put their own problems into perspective. Everybody has their own private response to someone dying, especially when it’s a child.
As a labor nurse, I held babies as they passed into the afterlife. I hugged parents as they said goodbye much too soon. It was never easy. It was always painful. To be quite honest, I constantly struggled for the right words to say and there were times when I stupidly said nothing. Looking back, I think I was afraid I would say something offensive or wrong. I learned later in my life just how badly that silence hurts. The roles reversed and I was suddenly the mother of a dying baby. To me, there was nothing worse than loved ones ignoring my sick baby for their own selfish reasons. “I’m sorry I never called” they would say months later “I thought of you everyday but I couldn’t find the words”. I was now receiving the silent treatment that I used to give grieving parents. I wish I could rewind time and undo those moments. I wonder if they also felt alone and terrified in the silence? Thankfully, the dark moments were brief and the support was abundant and somehow my baby survived. I was lucky. For every soul who couldn’t find the words, there were thousands of strangers who prayed for my baby. Those supporters pulled me through the darkness and today I get the opportunity to give back. Like Mitchell’s family, I found an endless supply of faith through kind words posted on Facebook.
After reading his story, my worries and problems seemed incredibly insignificant. It’s like God brought Mitchell into my life as another reminder on where I should focus my energy. My jaw dropped in admiration as I scrolled through all of the posts on Mitchell’s journey and read his story. His parents documented his journey with such grace that I was in awe. The amount of love, gratitude and faith was truly inspirational. I became obsessed and read everything I could find on this amazing little boy. In the days that followed, Mitchell’s health continued to decline and on March 2nd he passed. As heartbreaking as it was to read, I was equally stunned with the ability for the family to continue to move forward. His father showed intense bravery, writing his emotions for all the world to read. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to document the uncomfortable moments in the days that followed.
I only “met” this family through Facebook and I only knew them for less than a week yet their story will forever change me. The only thing they want is for their voice to be heard and their son to be remembered. We can do that! Thank you Mitchell Jones for reminding us about the important things in life. Hug your babies. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep the faith. Be brave. Show compassion. Be selfless. Love wholeheartedly and live life to the fullest. If you read a story that touches you, share it. If you are praying for someone, tell them. If you love someone, show them. Trust me, your voice makes a difference. Everyday is a gift. Everyone in your life is a gift. I needed to hear your story Mitchell. Perhaps sharing your story here, will touch a few more. You are indeed an angel.
Click here to watch an amazing video: Mitchell’s Journey Video
Click here to see the Facebook page that inspired this blog “Mitchell’s Journey”: http://www.facebook.com/mitchellsjourney?fref=ts
How Can You Help?
My friend Emily is running in the Cooper River Bridge Run to raise money for DMD in honor of Mitchell Jones and to support her son Jake. If you would like to donate, please click on the link below.