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My boy on one of the many ‘father-son’ ministry trips we took together; here, we’re at Christian Overcomers disability camp

Today is month two of our son’s leaving his cold, hard earth and finding full and final freedom in the arms of Jesus. He is home free and we, the left behind, praise the Father for giving our sweet, embattled boy an entrance (2Pe 1:11). These final two posts will be the most difficult in the series, as I want to tell the truth, painful as it is, but preserve the memory of Gra-Gra with the grace and dignity it demands. Thank you, reader, for following along with us…

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What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?…What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness…

– Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian believers (Chapter 15, MSG)

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Once upon a Sunday night, my little boy was staring out the passenger window and looking into the evening sky. He was silent for several minutes.

“What’cha thinking about, buddy?” I asked.

He turned to me and I saw the most serious expression on his sweet boyish face.

“Dad,” he began, “you know when the clouds go away they become stars?”

“They sure do, buddy.” I smiled at my prodigy.

My boy.

Sigh.

Oh, the insufferable ache!

Fifteen or so years later, give or take, I’d be looking into his casket; face, neck, hands and arms – every exposed place – just covered with tattoos. Innocence erased. Boyish wonder swallowed by a life that had stolen away too many spring-times and summer adventures and given only harsh winters in return. My little boy lost. A young man who tried to grow up way too fast and far too free.

Looking back, I’ve said some pretty hard words in my years of life and ministry…but nothing I’ve ever had to say compares to this:

My sweet boy died from a heroin overdose, cold, alone and homeless.

I can’t believe those horrible words just spilled from my fingertips and now smudge my screen. Dark. Unrelenting. Mocking. It’s out there. I’ve actually written it. And now I feel sick.

This boy?

This same little boy who, on the way home from church on Sunday, with family settled in for the quiet ride, begins singing “I Love You, Lord” word for word – and in perfect pitch – from his little fastened-in car seat? And, oh, did I mention he was only 18 months?…

This same little charmer who sidled up next to his mama and bravely watched a drama depicting the five missionaries who spilled their life-blood in Amazon sand and were added to the hallowed list of martyrs, at which he looked up at her with fiercely honest eyes and remarked, “that’s what I want to do with my life!”…?

My little third grader whose girlfriend Stasia ‘broke up’ with him, then later, on the playground, had told her best friend he broke up with her, which led to said friend pushing Gra-Gra down and calling him a “stuck-up ***-hole”, then mocked him, saying, “aren’t you going to cuss back?” and our Gravy Train picking himself up, brushing himself off and replying with a sense of bravado, “Nope. I’m a christian”, then she called him a “stupid christian” and he just smiled…?

You mean, that brave little guy?

My precious seven-year old who told me he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, and when I jokingly asked “you don’t want to be a preacher?” (I never pushed this on him), honestly replied, “I’ll be an astronaut who goes to church and loves the Lord”…?

Our darling first-grader, holding the ‘S’ sign for his Christmas program and standing ramrod-straight and belting out the all-too-famously encouraging Advent passage of Luke 2:10,11 loudly and proudly? Surely not him?…

The very Gra-Gra Scott who changed his “when I grow up” declaration a year later and told us he wanted to be THREE THINGS: “a father, a ‘ski racer’, and a husband”, then proceeded to inform us with utter sincerity “I won’t even kiss a girl before I’m married, and if she asks me to dance, I’ll say ‘uh-uh, not until I get married!'”…?

Our little ‘Bubby’ who would not be silenced on McDonald’s playgrounds, telling other little boys and girls about his True Love Jesus, and Sandy getting a couple different stare-downs from appalled mothers, to which she could only smile and shrug, and the day our little guy actually “led a little African-American playmate named Terrance to the Lord”…?

Him? Dead of a heroin overdose at twenty-four, all alone in the back seat of a car?

Our precocious nine-year old who walked in on Mommy and Daddy one morning in Clearwater, Florida, then ran out giggling and telling Grandmother about what he saw…?

Not my ten-year old little shadow who lamented to me one day he didn’t have a best friend, then me saying “sure you do, buddy, tell me who you’d rather spend your time with more than anyone else on earth” and hearing him say, “you, Dad”…?

Him?

Oh, dear God, no…

But…yes. The very same.

I have an entry in my journal, dated July 1, 1999, when Graham was not yet ten, and I’m crying out to my Father in heaven for the soul of my son who was struggling with his young faith, questioning everything about God, already with a scary bent to go every way but God’s way and I’m drawn to a single phrase that apparently reflected the fear I held for my child: “

“Dear God, I beg you, do not let my son run in rebellion…

The prayer that was my mainstay through the second third of his life, written all through my prayer journals, was that the Lord would keep my baby from drugs, pre-marital sex and a prodigal life. I wanted him to go to the altar a virgin. I begged God to make my son “a man You would write about”.

Over and over…

                                 and over…

                                                                  again.

How I wish for better endings.

And yet…

I’m reminded of a wrinkled piece of paper I carried around the country with me for many years, tucked in with my sermon notes; an illustration I used to highlight the sovereign goodness of the Almighty who can override our wants and plans anytime He chooses, simply because He loves us relentlessly and wants so much more for us than we can imagine for ourselves.

It told of a parchment found in the clothes of a dead Confederate soldier that cataloged the prayers of the fallen man throughout his life, and how nothing turned out as he hoped. The final stanza included the words, “in the end, I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.”

I’ve got my own stanzas and recollections of our Gra-Gra Scott (there are dozens and dozens more, I assure you), each their own separate “star” in an evening sky clouded right now by heartache, questions, griefs and wish-fors. Even some Dad regrets.

But, in the end, when the clouds roll away, there is nothing left but a brilliant galaxy of truth, lit by the unarguable proof from our Father (next post) that the same tattooed shell I looked upon in his casket two months ago is right now and forevermore adorned with everything his crying heart on earth hoped for: real peace, real hope, real answers, real freedom…real life.

Among those whom we shared a hug with in the five-and-a-half hour long receiving line at Graham’s viewing was a blind man who sees things mere mortals can never see, a friend, arm-in-arm with his wife who guided him to me. Tom handed me a note and told me to give it to Sandy later. He said it was “hefty and robust” and she needed to know what God spoke to him.

Later on that night, home and still reeling from the impending chore of burying our only child the next day, I unfolded the note, read its contents, and silently broke. The words told my wife that “one day you will see your son, running to you, skin gleaming.”

You were right, son. When the clouds go away, they turn into stars. Tonight we’ll look up and ‘see’ you shining and feel you running toward us.

And we’ll be okay.

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Graham at Teen Challenge, PA 2005
Graham at Teen Challenge, PA
2005

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Gravy and I, Good Friday Passion Concert, Verizon Ampitheater
Family, Millennial Gathering, 2012
Family, Millennial Gathering, 2012
Sandy and Gra The Keys, 2007
Sandy and Gra
The Keys, 2007
043
Gra-Gra during testimony service following mission trip to Honduras.
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Kindergarten program at school
My son and I praying together at a church event.
Gra and I praying together at a church event a decade ago.
Adoption Finalized; 1990
Adoption Finalized; 1990
Parents and sister, back row with ‘official’ Mommy

Post Author: Pasturescott

19 Replies to “Clouds Into Stars: Celestial Stories of Our Son”

  1. With tears for your pain and smiles for your memories I am holding you both in my prayers as you go through this unspeakable journey. Trusting our Lord to use what was meant for evil to be for His plan. Love to you both.

  2. Today in Ontario it is “Family Day” how very appropriate to hear about your family. Yes, all the realities of family. Scott, everyday people need to hear about these realities and about the great times and the tough times. May God be with you and Sandy continually and comfort you with the good times and also with the promises to come of being together once again in our “new” bodies…clean and shiny. Until then brother and sister…

  3. Bro Scott. Oh how I miss you guys and have constantly remembered you guys in these days. I know these have been powerfully difficult post to write, but thank you for being willing to share these painful details. You are a constant reminder to me that God is everything we have ever dreamed and more, but He is also a mystery and as it says in Narnia, “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Our God is fierce and awe inspiring and dangerous. He loves passionately, and we made in His image passionately live – and sometimes in our weakness and humanity our passion can be misguided. How easily we get led away. But as with Graham, how lovingly and gentle God shepherd us back. I grieve with the pain of a father. Please know that your honesty continues to shepherd me through this journey as I try to navigate the waters of raising four children and serve the Lord. Thanks for baring your hearts in these days. We love you.

  4. Scott, I am stunned by the similarities in Graham’s and Lee’s paths and personalities. I’m thinking they are hanging together in heaven and having glorious adventures with Jesus. I don’t know if I told you that our Lee was 24 (a month shy of 25) when he died of a heroin overdose. Lee was the little 3 year old pulling on the hem of my blouse during an alter call for missions. He said, ‘Mommy, I am going up there.” I told him people only go when Jesus calls them, to which he whispered loudly, “Mom, Jesus IS calling me.” and up he went. Love you guys.

    1. My mind gets details mixed up….(getting old). Lee was 26, just shy of 27, not 24. Age doesn’t matter in heaven. xoxoxo

    2. Lillian, you know that your Lee is in the other half of the picture with Graham. Gra loved him. I’m stunned with you, just how similar their stories are…and that their stories are ongoing – by the grace of God.

  5. Thank you Scott – I think of you and Sandy daily and pray for you both. A high school classmate lost his son last week. Not sure if it was a suicide or an unintentional OD, but I can’t imagine the pain. This is the second child they have lost.

    I believe God will use your writings to comfort other parents and I am so grateful that you have the strength to share your heart with the world. Love you Scott Mitchell!!

    ~Jeanne

  6. Pastor Scott I just can’t even put into words the love, respect, and admiration that I have for you! You are a strong, courageous, and unrelenting man of God that just inspires me. I am sooooo extremely glad that our paths crossed here on earth. God has used your walk and your words to say and reveal some pretty awesome things to me and even some hard things. You are a brother I will never forget one that God has used to make a major impression on my life and even the life of my boys…no they haven’t forgotten you! Love to you and Sandy!

  7. Thank you for sharing the precious memories. We met you in PA at a disabilities camp and were so blessed with your testimony and songs. It’s been a long time, but we remember when Graham entered your life. We all beg God for our children; this world has nothing to offer them but they can be so deceived by it. Thankfully Graham had a solid foundation and now sees things from a totally different perspective. We hurt for you, but can rejoice in those precious memories. Keep sharing!

    1. Indeed, his perspective is breathtaking. Bless you, Renee, for comforting us in our season of affliction. Not a word and sentiment is wasted. It all helps beautifully.

  8. My dear friend, I don’t have the words to say to you, other than I love you.

    I remember him as a very little boy. So cute. So sweet. I didn’t get to know him as an adult, but I’m certain that sweet little boy was still there.

    These posts… they make me want to know Jesus again, to find faith once more.

    I can no longer call myself an atheist. Your faith through all of this has shown me that there is something more than this world of flesh.

    Thank you, Scott, and thank you, Graham. I look forward to seeing you again one day.

    1. Buddy…I don’t know what to say. I can say, of course, I love you, brother, and revel in the marvelous grace of the Parent in Glory who brings us to each other and pulls us to Himself. Thank you, friend. Thank you for going through this with me. You’re outstanding.

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