Strangers often stop Natalie Jones and ask, "Are you Mitchell's mom?"
"Being Mitchie's mom taught me so many lessons about life," said Jones, her voice filled with bittersweet emotions.
Mitchell passed away on March 2 from heart failure after a lifelong battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He was 10 years old. His father, Chris Jones, chronicled his final months in journal posts on the Facebook page Mitchell's Journey. Thousands of people all over the world were moved by the inspiring messages of hope and faith even as the Jones family faced heartbreak and grief.
They also admired the sacred love and bond between mother and child captured beautifully in photographs of Natalie and Mitchell. Though her heart ached, Jones always smiled bravely for him.
"I knew I had to find joy for Mitchell. He was as happy as I was and I didn't want him to be sad or afraid," explained Jones.
Chris Jones said his son could not have had a better mother. In a Facebook post he wrote, "This woman, this mother, this noble soul and daughter of God is my hero. She is so strong, so loving. Under the extreme weight of this hardship I am beginning to see something amazing about her — something so beautiful I have always seen in her, but not like I see it today. I now look upon her with new eyes."
Natalie Jones said she believes there is no greater opportunity to serve God than to raise his children.
"Motherhood has taught me to focus on what matters most in life and to never hold back affection," Natalie said. "I love watching my kids grow, and I love the conversations we have and the spontaneous moments. With Mitchell I learned you may never have those moments again."
When Mitchell passed away, Natalie Jones said she panicked wondering if she had fulfilled her role as mother and taught her son everything he needed to know. "Then the thought came to me as was spoken in a blessing ... that he wasn't on this earth to be taught but to teach," said his mother.
The following are the lessons Natalie Jones learned from her son and recounted at his funeral service.
"Mitchell taught me even under the toughest of circumstances to smile. No matter how difficult the road, he smiled through the journey. One time in particular, after a hard, miserable 60-minute MRI scan that pulled his ear and eye hardware off, he tried to tell someone but no one could hear him. I wasn't allowed in the room, so I couldn't help him. I will never forget the moment I first saw him as they pushed him down the hallway, he was smiling through his tears. Upset about his experience but trying to make the best of things.
"He taught me about obedience. He would only participate in uplifting activities on Sundays and made sure his other siblings would adhere to Sabbath standards. He brought his scriptures to church every Sunday and always had an extra copy for his friend who seemed to always forget his. When it came time for chores, he was always first to get them out of the way, even before he was dressed for the day.
"He taught me about the wise use of agency. He always planned his day and would do his best to never waste a minute of it. To Mitch, life was a gift that he treasured greatly. Even during the difficult days leading to his passing, he wanted to use it wisely. As his body was shutting down, he was becoming very week and sleeping most of the day. When he would wake up at various times he would always ask what the exact time was. Mitch could not believe that he had wasted his whole day sleeping; he had things to accomplish.
"Mitchell taught me to enjoy the little things that life has to offer. He loved soft pillows, stuffed animals and real animals. He enjoyed baths and good smells. He loved a competitive game of UNO on a Friday night. He loved his close friends who were there for him till the very end. He loved his iPod and took pictures of a beautiful sunrise and sunset. Nothing was too small for Mitch. He appreciated the little things.
"He also taught me to endure to the end. With an ejection fraction of 5 percent and very low blood pressure, his already frail heart should not have been working. 'This Mitchell must have an amazing spirit because he's giving it all he has till the very, very end,' our nurse said. Mitchell's body and heart worked so very hard to survive until the very last moment.
"My experience with Mitch has also taught me more about the importance of families. His sister Laura-Ashley took such good care of him; she laughed with him often and always offered deep affection and lifted his spirits. His older brother, Ethan, also cared for him and took time every single day to give Mitch a hug at school and told him he cared and was there for him. Wyatt, Mitchell's younger brother, said while we were in the CICU unit at Primary Children's Medical Center that he would give his own heart to his brother if he could.
"Mitchie taught me about faith and prayer. He had so much faith in prayer. He knew that if he prayed every night Heavenly Father would help him be safe. If there was an especially blustery night he would ask me to pray for him as well, so that he wouldn't worry and could sleep. During his last month of life he prayed constantly and asked for Priesthood blessings often. He had great faith that his prayers would be answered and they were.
"The last lesson I learned is the most important and perhaps the hardest one of all: to find comfort and peace through Christ and the Atonement even during this extremely hard and painful time. I am coming to learn on a deeper level how Christ can heal my broken heart.
"I know during the years ahead I will miss my sweet boy terribly. And the Savior's words will continue to speak peace to my soul. I know that I will see him again I know that because Christ lives.
"Mitchell will forever be in my heart along with all of the treasured lessons he taught me."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company