In a world where more evil and despair seem to be found with every turn, thousands of people joined together on a Facebook page titled "Mitchell's Journey," in a spirit of love and encouragement. They've hoped, prayed and, more recently, are grieving together. Through this Facebook page, the Jones family teaches a number of life-long lessons that can apply to all of us, no matter the personal challenges we face.
When Mitchell was only 3 years old, his parents, Chris and Natalie Jones, were given news that every parent fears. Mitchell was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle-wasting disease which destroys all voluntary muscles - eventually the heart and breathing muscles in later stages. Their life was turned upside down all over again as the disease rapidly attacked Mitchell's heart in 2012. Mitchell was only 10 years old.
Take the time to live in the moment and share those moments with those you love.
In the summer of 2012, Mitchell's father began to recount the journey that he and his family were going through at Mitchell's side on Facebook. With talent and feeling Chris shares insights into the good times and the bad. The constant presence of Mitchell's terminal illness is a reminder that each day, each moment, is a gift.
If you focus on the good, you'll find it
As you read you find the courage of a little boy. On some days he smiles and tells jokes, on other days, the hurting just doesn't stop. But he is quick to trust in God and put others first.
When a wildfire came close to their home and everyone ran about preparing for evacuation in a panic, Mitchell was found kneeling in prayer. He spent tender evenings spent with his brother, good days spent playing with friends. With no more strength than a small squeeze of the hand, a "hand hug," Mitchell comforts his weeping mother and assures her of his love.
The faith, hope and strength of this family are clearly felt, no matter the circumstances of the day. Chris Jones wrote, "While this has been a journey of tremendous hardship and sorrow, it has also been a journey of profound tender mercies from a loving Father in Heaven who has and continues to help us through this difficult time. There is more love and happiness than there is pain. We are grateful."
Look for ways that you can lift others and you'll all feel better
Thanks to the modern world and social media, Mitchell's Journey quickly gained followers. Originally intended for friends and family, the Facebook page now attracts thousands of sympathetic parents or patients who are familiar with muscular dystrophy, classmates and complete strangers who would check in on Mitchell and his family.
Some visitors offered words of encouragement and love. Others gave to an account that would help with medical bills. All over the world people were praying for Mitchell and his family. It seems that all who heard and read their story were touched and gave back in whatever capacity they were able. Life dealt them a hard hand, but as their story was shared, a collective strength was found.
Never underestimate the influence of small acts
Despite hopeful plans for a surgery that might extend his life, Mitchell left this world behind him on March 2, 2013. Many will continue to fight to find a cure for muscular dystrophy in Mitchell's honor. But Mitchell's Journey hasn't ended there. This one little boy, who bravely faced a painful illness that quickly took his life, has inspired many. Just weeks before his death, his father shared a conversation he had as he cuddled his son late one evening.
"...but you, my little son, you have helped me. Because of you I want to be a better daddy, husband, and person. Thank you for helping me. Because of you I will never be the same. I kissed his forehead and he continued to cry tenderly and began to burrow his frail little body into mine and we cuddled deeper than ever before. He said to me, 'Dad, I am so happy.' I wept a strange potpourri of emotions as he drifted off to sleep. There in my arms, barely alive, was the most profound and painful gift of my life. I was so grateful for him and what he has meant to me."
Mitchell's story is touching and Chris's reflective insights urge us to hold our loved ones a little closer and to see the hand of God and the lessons to be learned in both the good and the bad. Let us take the time to really feel the emotions that come with each day and reflect upon the precious gift of life we have each been blessed with. Let us find good in each day. And let us be there for each other, that we might all help one another's burdens to be just a little bit lighter.