September 22, 2004 my life changed forever. I recall the police officer coming up to me in my driveway and saying “I am sorry to have to tell you this, Mrs. Mitchell, but your husband did not make it. Do you have any idea who could have killed him?”
I know in my heart that Scott is gone because the ambulance did not move and no medical personal ran around as they would normally be doing in an emergency situation like this.
I must be in the middle of a nightmare! Soon, I will wake up and find things back to normal, even though we did not know what normal was. How could this be happening to a pastor with a counseling degree who had helped so many people with their problems? And to me, an RN who had worked for the past 11 years on psychiatric units with patients addicted to drug and alcohol?
“Do you know who did this?” That question again. The answer was just too painful to say out loud. Then I hear myself say, “I think it was our son.”
Jonathan was number 8 on a list for a chemical dependency program called “His Mansion” located in New Hampshire. We had almost lost him 2 months earlier, in July of 2004, to a massive overdose of various over-the-counter drugs. We had struggled for the past 10 years with first alcohol dependency, then marijuana use, which eventually led to a meth addiction and all the behavior that went with it.
Years before, when Jonathan was in 2nd grade, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder and we struggled to manage that for years.
A majority of the time, I felt frustrated and like a failure as a parent with a child who was constantly in trouble. If he was on medication, we had continual side effects.
He was like a genie in a bottle. He would be able to sit still in school and do his work during the day hours. Then when the medicines wore off, he came flying out of the bottle, irritable, bouncing off the walls, and ravenous. The medicines would cause anorexia, so he would hardly eat all day while they were in his system. In addition, he could not go to sleep until after midnight .We often did not know whether medication helped, or hurt, more.
And if he was not on medication, he was in the principal’s office, constantly in trouble, and unable to focus long enough to complete his school work. It was constantly a lose-lose situation.
We attempted home schooling for a time and then special education classes in traditional school. By junior high, he was in the legal system due to sneaking out at night and engaging in high-risk behavior, and even running away.
He spent time in treatment programs from approximately ages 15-18 years old. We were heartbroken over and over through the years and wondered where ‘rock bottom’ was for him. It just seemed to get worse and worse.
At times, we were encouraged at his progress and insight after he spent time in a treatment program. We would get a glimpse of our quick witted, fun-loving son. We would be so hopeful!
Then he would become involved again with old buddies who were still using drugs and slide back into his drug use.
Once he started using methamphetamine, or meth, it was an even worse downward spiral.
He attempted several times to stop, and even moved to Canada with Scott’s help (as we are dual citizens) to get away from influences here.
He was in and out of jail for shoplifting and doing stupid things related to his growing delusional and psychotic mental status. For example, he wheeled a cart of groceries out of Albertsons and put them in his trunk without paying for them. When he was confronted, he said he owned the store and could take whatever he wanted. He then began singing the slogan from TV “Albertsons! It’s my store!” I could go on and on with examples of drug-related behavior and our heartbreak as we struggled to
All this came to a head in July, 2004 when he overdosed. Jonathan was 23 years old. He was sick of his life as an addict and was in a turbulent, destructive relationship with a girlfriend who did not want to stop using. When we were informed he could die, or at the very least need a liver transplant related to damage from the overdose, we asked our church to pray for a miracle.
We saw God answer prayer as his toxic levels dropped drastically and he was declared out of the woods. He remained confused, paranoid, and angry that he had not died and was placed on a hospital hold in a locked mental health unit for a few days. In time, he agreed that he needed help and applied to that New Hampshire treatment program his father had found.
Scott was focused on getting him to that program for we both felt we could not keep him at home much longer. And with the recent close call, he was a high risk for another attempt if he remained in this lifestyle.
One of the expectations of this drug program was that he had to call them in New Hampshire every single week to stay on the waiting list. Scott felt he needed to stay with us because it was a drug-free environment.
Earlier in the month, Jonathan had been arrested for a disturbance at Starbucks. His probation officer said he would throw the book at him and have him spend 6 months in jail this time.
For the first time, Scott went to court to request leniency from the judge due to the fact that Jonathan needed to call the treatment program weekly to stay on the waiting list. He had always told Jonathan that he would not bail him out or enable him because he needed to pay the consequences for his actions.
This was the first time he interceded and only because of his passion to get him to that program. The judge said “A wise man once told me if you are going to ere, ere on the side of mercy.” He then proceeded to lecture Jonathan about his behavior before placing him in his father’s custody.
I had tripped down the stairs at home and broken my foot about a week before we were to leave on a short vacation. I hobbled on it for several days before having it x-rayed the night before we were to take our flight. The doctor told us we could not fly for 48 hours after the cast was applied due to possible swelling.
Scott was extremely disappointed and he kept saying he was so tired and really needed a vacation. He attempted to get us booked in a time share at the coast, but there were no openings. I told him I did not think the Lord wanted us to be gone for some reason and maybe we could go somewhere when my cast came off? I would not be able to work as a nurse for some time.
So we just stayed home. We had a lot of time together that week, as I was in a non-walking cast and he was off of work. We watched his favorite TV program, “The Amazing Race,” and we laughed a lot! I teased him and said he had been given the opportunity to wait on me for a change and he did all the shopping, cooking, and laundry that week.
After Scott’s death, one of his friends told me he had to chuckle after reading the coroner’s report. All of his close friends knew Scott was extremely particular regarding his clothes matching, right down to his socks matching his shirt. This friend noticed the coroner wrote, “One blue sock and one brown sock” itemized right there on the coroner’s report! Scott would have hated that!
Scott also met with several men that week and prayed with them earnestly regarding Jonathan and his recovery. Many of them told me later that he told them he would give up his own life if Jonathan could get his back.
On September 22, Scott decided that since we were at home, he would go ahead and attend a men’s meeting at our church that night.
When he came home from it, he discovered that Jonathan’s girlfriend was in the basement and he told me he was going to ask her to leave. My last words to him were “Honey, be wise in how you say it.” Later she told the police that Mr. Mitchell politely asked her to leave and Jonathan escalated.
I heard loud voices and a slamming door. A short time later, I heard a loud noise. I got up on my crutches and headed for the top of the stairs. As I looked down I saw Scott at the bottom of the stairs, his gaze just above my face, and a look of wonderment in his eyes as he says just, “Oh my.” My eyes saw a drop of red on his chest and somehow I knew he had been shot!
I dropped my crutches and raced down the stairs toward him yelling something. I grabbed a towel, applied pressure, and ran to call 911, all the while screaming out to God audibly, “Help me, oh Lord, help me!!”
Scott was pacing in the kitchen as I was yelling into the phone. He was soon hemorrhaging. I was desperate. I could do nothing to stop the bleeding, and the ambulance was taking forever! WHERE ARE THEY?
I hung up from 911 and called my parents, who live 7 houses down the street, and screamed into the phone at them. I hung up again, and then called 911 back, all the while continuing to try to help Scott, who was by now lying on the ground.
My parents arrived and thought it was Jonathan covered in blood. Now both my mom and I were yelling out the door frantically, “WHERE IS THE AMBULANCE?”
As it turned out, the police were creeping up the street quietly because they did not know if a gunman was still present. In reality, it had only been a very few minutes since the 911 call was made.
Later I learned that Jonathan and Scott argued over Scott asking the girlfriend to leave, so Scott told Jonathan to leave also. Jonathan went to the car to leave with her and she told him he could not come and drove off. He was mad at her, as he felt he was defending her. He came back to the house to get his shoes because he was barefoot.
Scott was locking the door and told him he needed to apologize before he would open the door. Jonathan was mad and broke the glass in the door with a .22 gun he held in his left hand. (He had talked a friend into buying it for him for protection related to his paranoia.)
Scott went upstairs and Jonathan came in, grabbed his shoes, and left, thinking his dad would call the police since he had broken the window.
Jonathan did not realize the gun had gone off. A bullet had ricocheted from his father’s collar bone to his pulmonary artery, which resulted in death within 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Jonathan would return to the house the next day, walk up to the policeman outside our house, and ask why he was there, even as a citywide search was going on for him.
He did not believe his father was dead until he was shown the photographs of Scott taken at the crime scene, and even then, he thought there was a conspiracy against him and refused legal counsel. Finally, his lawyer had to convince him the bullet came from his own gun.
He was paranoid and psychotic as a result of years of meth use. Long term use can result in psychotic symptoms for months following even full abstinence from the drug, and even cause permanent psychological and physical damage.
In my heart as we waited outside the house, I knew Scott was gone, but I could not comprehend what had happened.
As the news leaked out and the police started a massive hunt for Jonathan in our neighborhood, friends and family gathered at my parent’s home. We were all in a state of shock and prayed the police would find Jonathan quickly and safely without anyone getting hurt. I was worried that he would harm himself when he realized what he had done. In my heart, I knew he had not done it intentionally.
My other two children ,Sadie who was age 22 at the time and Chad, who was almost 20, and I were together on the bed that night and we cried and prayed together. We knew that Scott was with the Lord.
We had that assurance because we knew he had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and was ready for eternity. But to go to heaven so suddenly and with absolutely no warning at all! The coroner told me he was gone within 1 to 1 1/2 minutes and there was absolutely nothing anyone could have done to stop the bleeding. He was here one minute and gone the next!
God’s provision for me and my family in the following hours, days, and weeks was incredible! My memory for details then is foggy, but my family said they had never seen anything like it! Immediately, close friends and our church family attended to every and any detail needed including food, finances, releases to the press, legal matters, and planning and carrying out a memorial for Scott. In addition, they went to see Jonathan in jail. Every detail was anticipated and met by very competent and loving hands!
My focus was on Jonathan and the immediate legal proceedings. Chad, my then 19-year-old, and I were asked to testify before a grand jury. Chad had left the house just minutes before Scott had come home that night, but he still had to give testimony. There were court hearings and a trial looming, all the while with Jonathan paranoid and psychotic in jail.
The details are numerous, but in the end God provided an incredible criminal attorney for Jonathan. A separate attorney was needed for me also, as I could be a suspect since I was present when Scott died.
In the end the evidence revealed Jonathan had no intention of killing his father. We did not have to go to trial because he plead guilty to manslaughter once he comprehended that the bullet had come from his own gun. He was sentenced to 11 ½ years and is now serving time at the Snake River Correctional Center in Ontario, Oregon.
I have not seen Jonathan since December, 2004 when he was in Washington County because he has requested no visitors. I talk with him weekly on the phone and we write.
He has yet to work through his father’s death. He says, “I can’t go there mom.”
I tell him he lost a father who loved him very much and he needs to grieve.
——————- part 2 ———————-
As I read Scott’s journal these words gripped me:
“When I am tested I will come forth as gold. I may not know where God is in all that is going on, but I know that He is involved.”
“He controls my destiny.”
“God accomplishes more in our suffering than our prosperity.”
“I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who calls you by name.”
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
1) Choosing to Focus on God’s Goodness-
From the very beginning, I was impressed that I had to take one moment at a time as the circumstances were far too overwhelming to comprehend and emotionally handle.
I knew I served a good God who loved me deeply. He had shown me that truth by going to the cross and dying for me. He loved Scott, and He loved Jonathan, Sadie, and Chad. He was present with us now and promised He would never leave or forsake me. I had a long history with a personal God since I had asked Jesus to forgive my sins and live in me as a child.
He had shown Himself faithful over and over to both Scott and me through the years. I had watched the faith of my parents and Scott’s parents even while growing up, for we had known one another since we were 9 years old. I knew that goodness, as well as faithfulness, were characteristics of God, so I made a conscious choice to focus on His goodness and love for me.
My primary question was not, “Why me, Lord?” or “Why did Scott have to die?” but, “Why did it have to be this way God? It’s too horrible to get my mind around Lord. You could have interceded in so many ways!”
We were supposed to be away that week on vacation, but because of my broken foot and my delay in seeing the doctor, we could not go.
Jonathan should have been in jail, but this once Scott intervened. God allowed it?
“Lord, you are sovereign and good and there are no surprises for you. I know you are not the Author of sin or violence, and that you know our days on this earth and how they are numbered. I also know what Satan means for evil, you would in some way use for your glory.”
That became my prayer: that some way the Lord would use this terrible event to help others and bring Him glory. I made a conscious decision to believe my God was good and that He loved all of us involved dearly. And he was himself grieving at our pain and this tragedy.
I knew I had to keep my eyes on him through this. I was reminded of Peter in the New Testament as he looked at Jesus and walked on water. When his eyes fell away and he saw the waves around him he began to sink- just as I would if my eyes focused on the terrible circumstances instead of keeping my focus on Jesus.
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
2) Songs in the Night
The first night, I slept very little following Scott’s death. But as I awoke, there was a song playing in my head: “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art!
I am finding out the greatness of thy loving
heart…” Over and over it played.
The next day, it was the doxology:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above ye heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”
That’s not even a song I sang very much! Nevertheless, it was there! I would be lying on the bed, my cast elevated on pillows, my arms raised, and tears streaming down my face as I sang praises to God. Something was happening deep down in my spirit.
I found a CD player and the last CD Scott had listened to in his car. I began listening to it over and over, especially at night. All night long I listened and sang praises to God, then cried and sang more.
Some songs had very hard words to sing:
“All to you, all to you, I give it all to you.
I surrender all I’ve been through Lord!
I give it all to you.
Though I have some questions remaining,
And some things I’ll never understand,
I come into your presence
And I place them in your hands.
All to you,
All to you,
I give them all to you.
I know you are faithful
And your promises are true,
Your mercy will sustain me
And your grace will see me through.
So I lift my hands before you
As a sacrifice of praise.
I cast my cares upon you
And I come to you in faith.
All to you,
All to you:
I give it all to you.
My son-in-law, Shawn, downloaded all my praise and worship CDs on to my computer. For the past 3 ½ years, I have played them all night long. When I would wake up during the night, just the right song and words would be playing to comfort and minister to me.
When Chad was a baby Scott recorded a few songs for me…
On what would have been my 29th wedding anniversary, I awoke to Scott singing, “Oh, I want to know you more!” What a present for me as I imagined him singing before our Lord in Heaven!
Something has happened in the depths of my spirit through praise and worship in the midst of deep pain and sorrow. Jesus has walked with me through that pain. And as I have lifted my arms to him with a grateful heart full of thanksgiving for WHO HE IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR ME ON THE CROSS, he has ministered to me deeply and I have experienced His comfort, peace, and joy!
I have never before had such deep pain, grief, and sorrow, but I have also never experienced this depth of comfort, peace and joy. The two have gone hand and hand.
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
3) Praying by Faith and Refusing to Worry
All my life I have been a “Great Worrier” and “Planner For What Could Possibly Happen!” And then, I would plan out how I would respond when it did! For instance, I had Scott DEAD AND BURIED many times over the years when he would be late getting home! I’d think, “He must have been in a car wreck or dropped dead of a heart attack!” So I would attempt to prepare myself emotionally as to how I would manage life without him.
I lived in fear and a false sense of being in control a great deal of the time. Scott would laugh at me and say, “Okay, how did I die today?” It became a standard joke between us!
I needed to feel that I was in control, even though that was an illusion.. So much of my life was so out of control with a drug addicted child. It became quite apparent very quickly that the way Scott really died was a completely out-of-control situation and nothing I could have prepared for.
If I lived in the “Tomorrows of Anxiety,” I would end up with panic attacks. So I would remind myself I was worrying and that I really had no control over that particular situation. God’s word says that whatever is not of faith is sin and so I would tell God, “I am doing it again. Please help me keep my focus on you, off the circumstances and just live moment by moment.”
I continued to have incredible prayer support and I was free to call someone and have them pray with me. With my vision refocused, I was reminded of God’s great love for me, his promise never to leave me, and his desire for me to enjoy his tremendous love.
There is a song I listen to that says that says, “Rest, the Lord is near, Refuse to fear, Enjoy His Love.”
Learning to pray by faith has been a lifesaver for me and goes hand in hand with refusing to worry.
For example, I pray by faith for Jonathan and thank God for what Jesus is doing in his life, even if I can not see it yet. I claim the verse that what good work the Lord has started the Lord will complete!
I thank God for the angels that surround Jonathan in his cell and protect him. I thank God that he knows what it will take to get his attention, that he has a roof over his head, food to eat, and is now drug free!
I thank God for the wonderful chaplains that work in our prison system and for the prison ministries available, and the ministries God is raising up even in my own church body now. I pray for every guard at Snake River Prison, for their safety and their salvation. I pray for revival there, as there has been at Angola State Prison in Louisiana.
I pray for every “celly or roommate Jonathan has, and I thank Him for the maturity I have seen develop in Jonathan and the right choices he has been making. You get the idea.
I pray with a thankful heart, knowing God is in control, and it makes all the difference in my ability to trust him to my heavenly Father who loves him far more than I do. This kind of prayer instills hope and not despair!
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
4) Partaking in the Fellowship of His Suffering
Reflecting on the past 3 ½ years, I have come to realize that I have been given the privilege of partaking in a little bit of the sufferings of Jesus. He has entrusted me to reflect his presence to a world longing for peace and joy A world lost and desperately searching for some meaning.
God has walked me through the grief process in His way and His time with His unique plan for me. It is ongoing and probably will continue for some time.
He has allowed me to be ministered to by so many during and following Scott’s death, “bearing one another’s burdens.” That is what Jesus taught and exemplified.
We can all be burden-bearers for the ones God places in our lives, always being aware that he is the ultimate Burden-Bearer, but often, for a time, He calls us to walk alongside those injured in this world by pain and suffering. So many of you have walked beside me and my family, so I am called to do the same.
God has placed me in a job where the grief-stricken are abundant. A locked, mental health, hospital unit with people who are depressed, suicidal, chronically mentally ill, handicapped, and many addicted to drugs and alcohol. People going through sexual identity crises, sex changes, and multiple past traumas. Lives ruined due to eating disorders, emotional, and sexual abuse.
We have both the abused and the abusers on our unit. If that unit is not a picture of our suffering world, then I don’t know what is! I can tell story after story of pain and suffering. Why would I think it would not touch me in this life? God provided his comfort, peace, and joy to me in my suffering, and I, in turn, am given the opportunity to comfort those around me and point them to ‘the Comforter.’
TREASURES OF DARKNESS
5) Seeing Life from God’s perspective
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
“For I know the plans I have for You…” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” (Isaiah 54:13)
“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” (Isaiah 57:1)
A prayer of mine has been, “Lord, help me see life from your perspective! Let me see some of the eternal picture and not be so short-sighted or earth-bound!” I have asked for insight, and wisdom, and for His heart. When you see someone you love die in a matter of seconds, life is never the same- nor should it be!
I have told Jonathan that it is God’s love that has him where he is and that he has been given a second chance to do things the right way. He is drug free, not under a bridge somewhere crazy, or dead from an overdose.
It took about 1 ½ years, but he has a clear mind now. He is no longer emaciated from meth use, but healthy. His needs are met and he can now make wise choices and mature emotionally while learning to develop good coping skills, instead of using substances to cope.
If the program in New Hampshire would have worked for Jonathan, I believe God would have used it for him (as it has worked for many). But I think he was too paranoid to stay among strangers voluntarily. He has had no choice in prison BUT to stay! I believe in some way, Scott gave his life so his son could live and I do not believe God will waste Scott’s death! Only God knows the whole picture and I am content to trust His goodness and love for my family and me.