HERRIMAN — A young boy’s final journey that was followed by people all over the world through Facebook came to an end early Saturday.
Mitchell Jones, 10, died from heart failure in his own bed surrounded by his family.
Mitchell told his parents the day before he died that he didn’t think he could survive. As his parents wept, he told them it would be OK. In the hours leading up to his passing, Mitchell’s family spoke with him and told him how much they loved him.
“We were grateful that he was able to squeeze our hands to acknowledge he was hearing us,” wrote Chris Jones on the Facebook page Mitchell’s Journey.
Jones said he formally tucked his son into bed one last time and said, “Don’t be afraid, everything is OK. I love you, son, so very much.”
Mitchell passed away soon after at 1:30 a.m.
“Our hearts are heavy with sorrow, but filled with gratitude and peace. Mitchell’s journey is not over; it has only just begun in this life and the life after,” said Jones.
Thousands of condolences have poured onto the Facebook page. “Your son gave me strength, hope and strengthened my faith. Thank you for sharing with us these tender moments,” wrote Giovanni Bona.
The page was started last summer by Mitchell’s father to keep family and friends up to date on his son’s declining health and at last count had more than 33,000 followers. The 10-year-old suffered from Duchene muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting disease that usually results in progressive muscle deterioration and is fatal by late teens/early 20s.
Facebook followers were moved by Chris Jones’ poignant reflections on his son’s life and beautiful pictures and video.
“Thank you for sharing your story, thank you for showing me and all the other followers what the word grace is all about. And thank you for inspiring all of us followers to remember what is important,” wrote Paula Boylan from Mansfield, Mass.
Mitchell was a shy child and did not like to be the center of attention, but his quiet strength captured many hearts, including the heart of former BYU and NFL football player Andrew Rich. Rich visited with Mitchell and his family on Sunday. He told Mitchell he looked up to him and said the child was stronger than anyone he had ever met.
“There was something special that you can’t describe or put into words, you could only feel when you were around (Mitchell),” said Rich. “The family has handled adversity in a way we all wish we could.”
Family friend and Deseret News sports writer Jody Genessy said the Jones family taught him a new level of love.
“It’s bittersweet, but because of Mitchell’s heart-wrenching condition and his family’s heartwarming reaction, I’m more aware of loving my own children, spending quality time — any time — with my family, soaking in their cuddles, kisses and company.”
The Joneses lived down the street from Genessy and his family. “The neat thing is you walk in, and you feel right at home.”
Genessy said he and his wife learned a great deal from the way Natalie Jones nurtured her son and her other children. Genessy described Chris Jones as someone who did not seek attention himself but loved to capture all the little moments in his children’s lives.
“The highest compliment I can give Chris isn’t that he’s a great guy, it’s that he makes me want to be a great guy,” he said.
Chris Jones wrote often about the sacred bond of family and the many ways Mitchell blessed their lives. “My broken child has taught me that all the pedestrian things I may have thought were important were merely child’s play — a paradoxical reversal of values. A life lesson I intend to keep.”
“The most special thing I felt about Mitchell, he lived a young life, but he’s been such a teacher,” said Rich, who had been receiving frequent updates on Mitchell’s condition from the boy's father via text messages.
Natalie Jones told the Deseret News before Mitchell’s death that her family was overwhelmed and humbled by the love and support offered to them by friends and strangers.
“It has really sustained us and allowed us to give our best to Mitchell,” she said.
Mitchell is survived by his parents, Natalie and Chris Jones, his sister Laura-Ashley, his brothers Ethan and Wyatt and his grandparents.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company