Gaye Swaback (Mitch’s Mom)

A mother’s pain and blessing…

We all have a story, we all have a journey, this is mine…

Blessing:  March 26, 1981, Thursday, God gave us Mitchell.  All 7 pounds 7 ounces, 19 inches long, blonde reddish hair and brilliant blue eyes!

June 21, 1981, Father’s Day Dedication Service.  Mitchell never did belong to us.  He belonged to God. Thankfully God allowed us to be mom and dad for 23 years, 4 months, and 22 days.

August 14, 2004, Mitchell entered heaven.  What a blessing to know that when believers in Christ die, they are instantly with Jesus.  II Corinthians 5:8

That Saturday night my life changed forever.  August 12, 2004, Mitch, along with 16 of his buddies, drove five hours to Wisconsin for their annual fun-filled water rafting weekend.  We, my husband Bob and I, were at a friend’s 50th birthday party in Prospect Heights, IL.  We were surrounded by our friends.  Blessing: Bob and I were together.  We live in Arizona. It was rare that we were together in Illinois.  In fact Bob had a flight to go home the next morning.  God had a different plan.

My cell phone rang; it was my sister Jillian asking for Bob.  I heard uncertainty in her shaky voice.  I asked her, “Is it Mitch or Jeff?”  Her son Jeff, my nephew was also on the trip.  All she said was I needed to talk to Bob.  I said no.  She then replied, “Mitch is missing.”  I can’t explain it, but I instantly knew Mitch was home – his real home – heaven.  I got Bob, told him Mitch was missing and handed him my cell phone.

Needless to say, that ended the birthday celebration.  Within minutes our friends were down on their knees praying for Mitch to be found safe.  In my heart I knew Mitch was safely in the arms of Jesus.  I was silently praying, God please may they find his body.  At the party was our friend, Bill Martin.  At the time, he was the Police Commander in Arlington Heights, IL.  He was able to make phone calls and contact people we couldn’t.  Around 10 pm we received the call, they found Mitchell’s body.  I was in our friend’s living room praying when I was asked to go into our friend’s office.  There Bob told me our Mitchell was gone…Bob and I cried and held onto each other.

Blessing: Our pastor, James MacDonald was there, held us and prayed with us.  Then the phone calls to family…One of the hardest calls was to our daughter Nicolee and son-in-law Paul in South Carolina, to tell your daughter, her brother is gone.  Hearing my daughter scream, having your son-in-law of only 2 months saying, what do I do?  To feel their pain…Blessing:  Nicolee was not alone.

Bob and I went back to our Roselle, IL. condo at 1:30 am.  We didn’t know what to do?  Shock, disbelief – is this really happening?  Our Mitchie gone?!  I only had one place to go – God.  I asked for a verse, picked up my Bible and God gave me Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, whom I trust.”  We later learned on 8-14-04, Mitchell flipped off a cliff into the Wolf River and never came up.  We believe he got the wind knocked out of him as he hit the water.  His death certificate states:  Drowned while swimming.

What has gotten me through?  Focusing on God.  Embracing his love, goodness, mercy, holiness, grace and comfort.  Knowing Mitch loved God and believed in Him.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be forgiven through faith in Him.  His sacrifices were based on His love, not on our merit.  Salvation is a gift.  Jesus wants us to give Him our heart.  Accept the free gift of salvation.  Mitch accepted the gift of salvation.  That’s where the blessing comes in.  I know I will see Mitch again in heaven.  Psalm 139:13-16.  Mitch was walking close to our Lord, now Mitch is walking with our Lord.  There will always be an ache in my heart for Mitch that will only be healed when we are united in heaven together.

I thank God that my grieving Mitch is not feelings of helplessness, fear, anger or guilt.  It’s immense sadness because Mitch was such a great guy.  Blessing: Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Mitchell’s journey is complete…

My journey continues…

Dr. James MacDonald (Mitch’s pastor and friend)

We’ve Lost a Son!

It’s 3:00 a.m. and my mind is bursting with sadness
I cannot sleep, I only weep?
How can that be? I always sleep?
Even when the my mind is racing, even when my heart has lost its song
I’m wide awake, I’m gonna break
We’ve lost a son!

I dropped my own boy off at college today
I didn’t sigh, I didn’t cry?
How can that be? What’s wrong with me?
My son so loved has left the house and altered family feeling for all time
The day of dread, but no tears shed?
We’ve lost a son!

A Pastor sees it all the time
A sister dies a husband flies,
To heaven’s shore, to be with God, and know a joy that’s far beyond compare
But not like this . . .
A grief that flows, and grows and shows,
We’ve lost a son!

No words can say what echoes in the heart
It now appears, our deepest fears
These lines must fail to capture what the human soul can never comprehend
We’re shocked, and rocked . . .
Can time erase, his wondrous face?
We’ve lost a son!

Parents die, It’s part of life!
They leave, we grieve,
And life goes on unbroken, as the cadence of the clock cannot be stopped
There’s no category for this, are you listening? it’s not the same!
Your cliché prone, we’re all alone
We’ve lost a son!

I sense a warming touch upon my spirit
I’m wrong, I’m shown, I’m not alone!
The kind of understanding that can only come from sharing something deep
God’s heart is broken too!
So He’d forgive, so I might live,
He lost a son!

What kind of Father makes this staggering choice?
Only a love , that’s from above
Would crucify heaven’s treasure, so that my unworthy soul could be redeemed
God’s love is Awesome!
Yes now I see, for one like me!
God Gave His Son!

Brian Medaglia (Mitch’s college pastor)

I met Mitch Swaback in December 2002 when I was serving as College Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. I was told by one of the other pastors that he would be coming to the college ministry and that he had been going through a rough time. I welcomed him to the group and told him that tonight was special testimony time and that he would be hearing from other young people about what God had been teaching them the past semester. I didn’t ask Mitch to share because he was new to the group. Just goes to show that I didn’t know who this guy was! With a room full of strangers, he tearfully shared about how he was going through a very difficult time with the death of his friend. Mitch knew that he was going down the same path as his friend and that he had to make some radical changes. The most painful change was the rejection he felt from many of his “friends” when he decided that he couldn’t party any more with them. He was starting over and trusting God to help his find new friends that loved Jesus.

Fast forward to Spring 2003. The college ministry is having a retreat and I know God is going to be moving in a powerful way. Mitch calls me aside and wants to talk. As a pastor, you cherish the times when young people want to share what is really going on in their lives. Mitch started to weep and I could tell his heart was broken. He shared with me that he had never shared the good news about Jesus with his friend that had recently died. More importantly after we talked and prayed, he was convinced that God wanted him to go back to his friend’s mom and share the gospel. Mitch asked the entire college ministry to pray for him – that he would show his friend’s mom love and be bold about sharing the gospel. Many of us cried with Mitch and prayed over him that night. God’s Spirit was working in Mitch’s life and it was awesome to witness.

Mitch came to me and said that he felt God was calling him to be on the summer missions team of 15 students and leaders heading to Peru. Mitch’s work schedule was always hectic, but he was confident that God wanted him to take time off of his job and invest time in missions work. I was excited that Mitch was answering God’s call but not because we could use Mitch’s construction skills or strong work ethic, but because I knew that the primary work God would be doing was making Mitch more like Christ through this missions experience. And I saw first hand how Mitch was humbled by spending time with the 60 children that we ministered to at the Lima Children’s Home. These children were orphaned or abandoned but God was still taking care of them at the children’s home through staff that loved them. Mitch understood that he was blessed many times over by spending time with these younger brothers and sisters in Christ. And of course the kids loved Mitch – he played with them and laughed with them. He took special care of a young boy named Claudio that was often made fun of by the other kids. He was a special needs kid and knew that he was different. The other kids knew how to agitate him. But Mitch made a special effort to play with Claudio. As a pastor, there are those times when you get the chance to sit back and see young people maturing in Christ right before your eyes and you are so proud. I was so proud of Mitch that week.

In late July 2004, I knew I would be leaving Harvest Bible Chapel and my heart was heavy. And then I got a call from Mitch and I knew we was going to chew me out for leaving! Mitch and I set up a lunch time to say goodbye at Max and Ermas. Mitch and I talked about his dream of going back to Peru and help to build a new children’s home. He wanted to be a good steward of the time, talents, and money God had given him. He also talked about learning to get more balance in his life – say no to certain good things so he could say yes to the best things. When you make transitions in life, you know there are only certain people you will stay in touch with long term. I anticipated Mitch and I being lifelong friends and I looked so forward to laughing with him and seeing the plans that God had for him unfold.

On August 13, 2004 I received a call at 4:00 AM that my father had finally died of cancer. I was saddened but mostly relieved. He had suffered greatly in the last few months and my family was worn out because of his battle. But there was also the joy of knowing that he was with the Lord. While in the hospital in June 2003, my dad said he was open to being involved in a Bible study. Mitch called and left a voicemail while I was in Atlanta and let me know he was praying for me and especially that my dad would come to Christ. And God answered Mitch’s prayer!

On August 15, I awoke and had a strong sense that I needed to check my voicemail. It was Sunday and I was on vacation with my wife Kimberly and I had every reason to not check it. But then I found myself dialing and then hearing the voice of one of the other pastors at Harvest. He had left the message after midnight and I knew by the tone of his voice that something was wrong. Then time stood still when I heard that Mitch had gone to be with the Lord on August 14, one day after my dad had died. A 23 year old man in the prime of his life one day after a 67 year old cancer victim. I imagined Mitch talking to my dad, swapping stories, and thinking that I cannot wait to be reunited with them both. My wife Kimberly and I loved Mitch very much and considered it pure joy that God brought Mitch into our lives. And through the love of Mitch’s family, friends, and now the Mitchell Swaback Foundation, Mitch’s life continues to impact lives for Christ. Amen!

Carlye Begnaud (Friend)

Mitch and I met in 2000, but didn’t become good friends until 2001. I can’t really say that I remember the first time we hung out, but once we started to, it became a very regular, if not daily occurrence for about 5 or 6 months. At the very least, we talked or emailed every day. Mitch moved into a condo about 4 miles up the road from me during this time. The first day I visited him there, I discovered that my apartment keys let me into his building. From then on, I would let myself in and just knock on his door or just walk in and announce my arrival. We both wondered if we should tell someone about the security issue but never did. Mitch came over one Saturday and painted my kitchen. He took the liberty to tear down the regulated blinds that the landlord had put up because he thought they were ugly. He also painted over the thermostat in the kitchen, which to this day is light green and almost unreadable. Mitch always cared about what was going on in my life. If someone hurt me, he would always want to go beat them up. I never let him, but I’m pretty sure at one point, if I had given him the okay, he would have.

Mitch knew that I wanted to go back to school full time, but because of debt and living expenses, I would not be able to get by working less than full time. At one point, over the course of a couple of weeks, he and I had many talks, even arguments, about him wanting to work two full time jobs so that he could give me money to go to school. He didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let him. Mind you, Mitch and I were just friends. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable taking such a huge gift from someone that was only a friend, simply because I would never be able to repay him. He repeatedly told me that he didn’t care, he just wanted to do it for me and I was foolish to not accept it. I must have asked him to close the case on that one because we eventually stopped discussing it, but he would remind me from time to time about the offer I’d refused.

Mitch and I used to go to the city every Saturday morning to work with the homeless ministry at New Hope Church. We would hand out clothes and food, hang out with the kids or just talk to the adults who came in. Everyone there loved Mitch. He would talk to anyone. He had this amazing way of showing interest in people that he didn’t even know and loving people that he had just met. At one point, he was nominated the bouncer for the ministry. I believe there were a few times when he actually did have to hold people back from fighting or stand in between people to ward off an argument. Even though the ride with Mitch to and from the city on those days was somewhat faster and a little scarier than it would have been if I’d gone alone, I honestly felt safer with him being there. It was nice to be able to look over my shoulder and see him and know he was looking out for me.

Easter of 2003, I received an email from one of my pastors regarding a massive Easter egg hunt that would be taking place the following day at Cabrini Green (Chicago’s toughest housing project).  As I tried to think of which friends I could get to go with me, Mitch came to mind. Even though we didn’t hang out as much anymore, and probably didn’t even talk on a regular basis. I knew he would join me, even with the last minute invitation. Sure enough, I called him and he was in! He picked me up early the next morning, a Saturday, and we headed to Chicago. We spent the morning hiding colored plastic eggs that had little prizes hidden inside, as well as keeping the kids out of them until the hunt actually started. Later that morning, Mitch played basketball with the older neighborhood kids while I did crafts with some of the younger ones.

Others have mentioned how Mitch had a way of making them feel like they were the most important person in the world to him. He made me feel the same way. He listened when I’d call to tell him something; he remembered things that I didn’t even remember that I’d told him and he was genuinely concerned about things going on in my life. Mitch was the kind of friend I knew I could call at anytime, day or night and if I needed help, he’d do whatever he could to help me. Last year, Mitch was one of two important people that the Lord took out of my life and brought home to be with himself. I’ve realized that losing someone you love is really hard…wishing you had let them know how much you value them is something that might never go away. But losing someone you know loved you is possibly harder. Suddenly you feel a little lost without that person….knowing that you don’t have that ear on the other end of the phone anymore, or that shoulder to cry on or those arms to hug you when you just need a hug. Losing Mitch has really made me look at the way I treat the people God has placed in my life. Do I tell them that I love them often enough? Do they know that I find value in them and think they are special? I have been trying my best lately to let people know these things and I believe that I have Mitch to thank for that.

Shannon Olsen (Mitch’s college leader)

The first thing I ever said to Mitch was ‘Well done’. It came after the first time I ever saw him or more accurately heard what he had to say. My first memory of Mitch left me thinking that he was braver than I could ever be. It was near the holidays and the College ministry where I was a leader was having a testimony night to share with each other all that God had been doing in our lives. I don’t think we’d been there a half hour when this big, blond guy came up to the microphone. I knew right away he was new and I couldn’t help but listen a little more closely. It takes a lot of courage to go up in front of a room full of strangers to share something personal. That’s when I learned his name was Mitch and his story blew me away.

But to this day more than the content of what he said I will remember the tears that fell. His brokenness was clear. His repentance was real. His calling was obvious. His tears moved me to tears. His brokenness opened my eyes further to the depth of our Savior’s unfailing love. His repentance forced me to check my own heart. And both of us moved into our Father’s waiting arms again that night. Mitch boldly proclaimed God’s faithful goodness through the pain he was suffering. And then he made an even bolder declaration: He had been challenged by Pastor James to seek out his old friends (from a life he’d left behind) and share the Gospel with them.

That night changed a lot of lives and I would know, I received the questions and comments that followed. Life time believers wondered if their faith could be that strong; their passion that evident. Newcomers couldn’t deny God’s presence or His truth. The broken had a comrade. The outcasts found a friend. The hope of the faithful was renewed.

I don’t know about you, but as I reread that last paragraph I can’t help but think that’s a pretty good description of Jesus. Jesus came to earth and completed His mission: to save us from an eternity apart from Him. Mitch came and completed God’s calling for each of us: to become Christ-like. Knowing this, I believe that the first words Mitch heard when he came face to face with His Savior were ‘Well done.’ Just like the first thing I ever said to Mitch after a testimony like that; or after living his life for Christ, what else there to say? Except ‘Well done.’

Nicolee Thompson (Mitch’s sister)

I don’t think one can truly put into words what a family member means to them. As I try to share with you memories of my brother, I promise to fail miserably with only using one page of words.

Mitch was equal to a ragging rock concert. I cannot remember a single day that his energy, voice, and enthusiasm were turned down. He lived his life on HIGH, he would try anything, talk to anyone, and simply lived with no fear. There was only one Mitch!

Growing up with Mitch there were the usual sister-brother fights, some playful, others not. But what stands out the most are the memories of Mitch in the last few years. He had grown and matured as I prayed he would and with the maturity came a protected heart for me, his big sister.

Mitch constantly wanted to take care of me with his generous heart. One of the last, BEST memories was of a Cubs game last May. A friend and I were flying into Chicago for the weekend and he bent over backwards to get bleacher Cubs tickets for us. I had no idea until after Mitch went home to be with the Lord, how hard it was for him to get those tickets. Without me saying a word, he just got it done and we experienced one of the most entertaining nights together watching the Cubbies take home a 2-1 victory! I believe that night the entire rest of our seating section also enjoyed themselves, thanks to Super Fan Mitch!

It’s ironic that this memory sticks out in my mind, because the last time I spoke to my brother was a few days before his rafting trip and the reason he called: He forgot to call me the night before from another Cubs game! He told me about another great game and I told him to be careful and have fun as he prepared for his trip.

With Mitch around no one ever felt uncomfortable or as they didn’t fit in, he took care of that immediately and sought out those that no one else would. He would do something stupid or funny or both, and the outcome was always the same – the sound of laughter. Mitch also sought out the Lord in his life and I saw more of that each time we got together. He made it clear that he felt no shame in loving the Lord. He never hid it or denied his Savior, and for that I am most proud.

I can’t relate in words the depth that my brother will be missed; parties will be not as loud, there will probably be more food leftover, and there won’t be anymore Cubs game phone calls. I will miss looking into his accepting eyes filled with love, followed by a small grin and a huge hug. But I can smile at the fact that he’s enjoying another party at this very moment, a party hosted by God and attended by angels where on August 14th Mitch was the guest of honor!

Jeff Harbeck (Mitch’s cousin and best friend)

Mitch Swaback was a guy who lived with no fear. No fear in life and no fear of death. He loved extreme sports and pushing it to the limit. Whether it was attempting a front or back flip while snowboarding off a huge jump we had just built, or dropping a 20-ft cliff in Jackson Hole, he was always the first to “hook it up”. I can remember a number of times we would be carving our way down some remote bowl and come to a stop when we noticed a drop up ahead. I would always want to go check out the landing, but Mitch would just check it out in mid air.

There was a reason Mitch lived with no fear. It was his rock solid faith in Christ Jesus. Many people can recall hearing Mitch say the words “I’m not worried about it; I know where I’m going”. “If it’s my time, it’s my time…God is in control.” You see, no one I have ever known has had more confidence in his faith in Jesus Christ than Mitch. Mitch’s spiritual gift was one of faith and anyone who really knew Mitch knew that.

Mitch was also my cousin, my brother, my best man, and my best friend. Words cannot describe what he meant to me in so many ways. No matter what I was going through or where in the world I was he was there to listen and love me. His loyalty as a friend was unparalleled. I often said if there was one person in the entire world I would want at my side in a dark alley it was Mitch. He was the kind of friend who would not hesitate to get in front of harms way for you. To say I will “miss him” does not even scratch the surface of loosing a brother like him.

Thankfully, Mitch has left me the greatest gift a best friend could have left. I have a daily reminder, from the example of Mitch’s life, that each day is a gift from God. More than ever, I realize that every day we have been given is precious. We should live each day glorifying the Lord in a bold way. One of the Foundation’s key verses, which was on Mitch’s computer, is Psalms 31:3, “For You are my rock and my fortress; and for Your Name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” This life is not about us and what we accomplish for ourselves, but rather how we choose to use the time we have to glorify Christ. Everything we have been given is from Him, and therefore it is His and should be used to glorify Him.

I have the confidence and promise that I will be reunited with my brother in heaven because of the truth in God’s word. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Until that day I will continue to strive to live a life glorifying to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks, Mitch, and I will see you soon.

Brad Swaback (Mitch’s uncle)

On a very cold June morning, we awoke from the buzzing hotel alarm clock that was set for 3:30 a.m.

As we dragged each other out of bed, we forced our way into our wet suits, jumped into our truck, headed one mile east to Winthrop Harbor where we launched our wave runners into a very silent, calm and dark Lake Michigan. Despite the warnings from early morning fisherman that our wave runners were not supposed to be out in the darkness we idled slowly out of the marina. We high fived each other as we passed the empty coast guard vessel knowing they would be all over us if they saw us. Our plan was to slowly go out two miles on Lake Michigan and then wait. We wanted to experience what it was like to have an unobstructed view of the sun rising over the horizon. As the sun started to rise we were amazed at the site we saw. It literally felt like it was only a few miles ahead of us. Without hesitation we both hit it and took off towards the sun. Most people ride off into the sunset, that morning we experienced riding into the sun rise letting out screams of excitement until the sun had final separated itself from the water. At least five miles away from the shore by now, we turned off our engines, turned our bodies around, used the handle bars as a back rest, put our feet up on the seats and just floated. To this day I remember saying to Mitch, this is one memory that will always belong to you and me.

Little did I know that 14 years later I would be working with Mitch on a daily basis. The same energy, excitement and craziness that I experienced that morning was as strong as ever and so was he. Mitch developed into a strong young man who I was privileged to have shared so much of his life with.

On any given day Mitch always seemed to be in the middle of things.

For Mitch, it wasn’t about the personal attention, it was about him wanting to share life, problems and situations with those whom he loved and cared for. Although one might argue that from the outside looking in.

His personal trademarks of being loud, somewhat irritating and somewhere north of the crazy line were known by all. But those things were small in comparison to the love he had for others. Under that rough and tough body of his, there was a soft gentle heart that was ready to share tears for anyone he knew, Mitch had a heart of pure love, for God, his family and his friends.

When I asked Mitch’s cousin, co-worker and best friend Jeff to describe Mitch in one word, what would it be?

His answer was one that I know most would agree with and that word was; “loyal”.

It didn’t matter what battle you were facing, what game you were playing or what challenge needed to be conquered you could count on Mitch to be there.

Mitch was dependable, hard working, helpful and even when it was out of his league he was always ready to step up to the plate and take a swing and it didn’t matter who was watching.

If you were choosing teams, you would pick Mitch, if for nothing else but the fact that he would give a 100% and would always try his very hardest.

At work, Mitch accepted guidance, was eager to learn and was striving for the excellence that he watched his father display on a daily basis.

Mitch always received discipline well, was quick to say I’m sorry and I’ll try harder next time.
Mitch also brought the lighter side to work, whether it was a 100 copies of a persons image strategically placed throughout my office so no matter what I opened up or what page I would turn to, I would bust a smile.

He would hide 1 inch figurines of men dressed in different themes in my office; on a ledge, looking over the top of my monitor or on top of the door. Until you spotted them they were always staring at you.

Mitch would always complain about his office being to hot and always bug me to have the thermostat lowered that was right outside his office door. He couldn’t do it because of the clear locked plastic case that surrounds the thermostat. Today, taped to the inside of that clear case is a 1 inch policeman figurine that guards that thermostat. I chuckle inside just about every time I walk by there.

Mitch always had phrases that became contagious, whats up, I’m straight, Boo-ya and the Mitch classic used mainly after he was yelled at; what-ever dude.

But the one that will always be special is when it was time to go home, Mitch would come into my office, we would hit fists and then he’d say; pizel – code for peace out.

Mitch allowed me his world, I always got amped up by his energy and his intensity and he would always egg me on by saying;

Come on old man. Ever since I can remember Mitch was always trying to take me down and when he finally had the chance to (and I knew he could) I would just remind him that I was not only his uncle but his boss; so I win, that drove him nuts!!!

I’m going to miss him, I’m going to miss his voice echoing through the halls at work, I’m going to miss him calling me in the afternoon to see if I want a coffee from Dunkin Donuts and most of all I’m going to miss him sneaking up behind me and giving me the tight and sometimes elevating Monday morning hug!

There will always be a place in my heart for Mitch, it’s a giant void that will never, ever, ever be filled, it will always belong to him and he will never be forgotten.

Ty Gooch (Mitch’s college pastor)

Very few people on this earth display the impact Jesus Christ has on their life by the impact that they themselves have on the lives of the people around them. Mitch Swaback was on of those people. Mitch was handsome, outgoing, lovable, caring, loyal, and much more. More than anything Mitch was a man excessively changed by his ever increasing commitment to be the man that God’s word called him to be. Mitch used every ounce of life God gave him to eternally impact others lives through his personal relationships, the college ministry, the sports ministry and on the missions trip he was involved in at Harvest Bible Chapel. I will never forget the day Mitch showed before everyone on the basketball court the difference in being self-motivated and God motivated. The impact he had was one that showed us all what it really looks like to be sold out for Christ. Thanks Mitch for the example that you were to us all that God can and will have his way in us, if only we would choose Christ’s ways above our own!

Adam Kraukis (Friend)

It was a privilege to have Mitch as one of my closest friends. Along with Mitch’s cousin, Jeff, we worked together, worked out together and had a whole lot of fun times besides. Occasionally, I was lucky enough to run into Mitch at church and worship along side him. I now look at those times as our best times together. Mitch was very much a guys’ guy, and I might add, the girls took a liking to Mitch as well. Plain and simple, everyone loved Mitch. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine, who after meeting Mitch for the first time, would later come up to me and say, “your buddy Mitch is awesome!” Of all the people I have known and will likely ever know Mitch took the cake when it came to likeability. He had an energy that drew people in. There was never a dull moment with Mitch around.

Two weeks prior to Mitch’s passing, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend an entire Saturday with him. After a day of golf, good conversation, and tons of laughing, we drove from Wisconsin back to my house where my wife, Emily, and 3 children had been cooped up all day. The drive back began with discussion about the mischief we had gotten ourselves into during our younger days. Our conversation then lead to spiritual things, important things—such as how the Lord was changing us and how we desired to serve him whole-heartedly. Mitch had a huge desire to grow into the man that the Lord wanted him to be. We then pondered what heaven might be like. We finally came to the conclusion that whatever it was like, it was sure to be amazing and beyond the comprehension of our earthly minds. Little did we know that Mitch would soon see the glory of the Lord and have answers to all the questions we could have possibly come up with. Praise the Lord!! We then arrived back at my house. The moment Mitch walked in the door he went straight to my two oldest children, Anna (2) and David (1). That was the moment when “big tough Mitch” that we so often saw, brought himself down to the level of a toddler. Talk about a goof ball; I had never seen anyone play with my kids as energetically as Mitch did. It quickly became obvious that there was no limit to what Mitch would do to get a rise out of my kids, and a rise he got. Anna was so taken with Mitch that she actually started to blush. Afterwards she kept talking about the “nice man”. That day I caught a phenomenal glimpse of Mitch’s heart. Mitch had a big heart. The genuine sweetness and the love for children that Mitch displayed that afternoon was the topic of discussion between Emily and I before bed that night. “The kids sure loved Mitch!”

So, what did Mitch teach me? I would have to say Mitch has taught me that what really matters in life are the relationships you have, what you have done to glorify the Lord, and most importantly, a proper perspective of who Jesus is. Mitch knew Jesus not just as a good man that lived over 2000 years ago, but rather as his Lord and Savior who by grace freely offered him forgiveness of sin through Christ’s death on the cross. Because of Mitch’s faith in Jesus Christ, though I greatly miss Mitch, I take comfort in knowing that he is surely with our Lord. And that’s where I picture Mitch. At the Lords feet singing praises to his name. I can only imagine the enthusiastic greeting that awaits me when I see Mitch again, in paradise!

Praise the Lord for Mitch’s life.

Jaimee Draper

Tribute to “Mitchie”….

“Mitch.” For those of us who knew him, hearing or saying the word meant more than just some guy’s name. “Mitch” brought up a chain of stories or events to talk, laugh, or reminisce about, whether we were with him, or just discussing him. Mitch was no ordinary man. He was one you couldn’t forget if you wanted to… and I know no one who would want to.

I grew up with Mitch and his sister Nicolee. We were cousins and friends since the day Mitch was born. I held Mitch in my “four-year-old” arms when he was onl a couple weeks old. I knew from the start we’d be buddies. My brother, Jeff, and I were with our souins all the time. We were blessed to grow up with such close cousins in age and similarities. Although, there were much shared interest and beliefs, there were also differences. God made us each in a unique way to be used in our lives to glorify Him, and stretch and teach each other.

I always admired Mitchell’s boldness and what seemed a lack of fear. He would sense my cautious worry and often say, “Don’t worry about it! Nothing’s gonna happen”. He meant that even if something wasn’t going to go exactly as planned, God had it under control. Mitch’s faith allowed him to accomplish and grow in ways I pray I will grow in as well.

Another part of Mitch’s spirit that I often talked about  until he went to be with the Lord was his sensitivity. Mitch had a bold and brave demeanor, that often became somewhat overbearing, but it could never cover the gentle heart and love he had for others. He loved Jesus, and allowed Jesus to show compassion to others through him. I witnessed the “Bear-like” physique turn to tenderness as his gentle spirit she d tears for others several times.

I sometimes wrestle with the “why” God took Mitch at age 23. Mitch might say that the #23 is a great number for Chicago sports fans like himself “Dude, we have Michael Jordan (23) and Ryen Sandberg (23)!” If told that he would be leaving this earth at 23, he would’ve probably said, “it’s my time”, without worrying about how young that age is considered on this earth. The “why” may never be fully known on this side of heaven. What we all must wrestle with is the “where” am I with my relationship with my Father? Not one of us knows the appointed time Goad has for us to be done with this earth. We are here for a purpose… each one of us his own. Do we have a relationship with the one and only heavenly Father God, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

I am so thankful that I have heard the Truth, and have had the opportunity to know my Savior, Jesus. I have accepted Him as the Forgiver of my sins and the One who has given me eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone who hears has that opportunity! I pray that if you don’t know the Father… the same Father who Mitch knew, that you will talk to God, who listens, and ask him to be your Savior. The Bible says to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and though shall be saved!” It also says in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It’s free! All we have to do is believe in Jesus and ask Him to forgive us to our sins and wipe all that sin away.

I remember at one Christmas family get-together, Mitch stood in front of the family and recited Proverbs chapter 3 from the Bible. He also had a verse from that chapter on his computer before he went to be with Jesus. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” In a world of so much uncertainty, choose to turn to Jesus today. He loves you and want you to spend forever with Him… and Mitch.

Andy DeVore (Friend)

Mitch was a unique and awesome guy. We always had a blast hanging out together as he always pushed me to the next level when it came time to having loads of fun. As a fellow “guy’s guy”, I related very well with him. A majority of my bonding time was on the several weekends away with me and friends camping and rafting the Wolf River. Each time was an absolute blast. Some of my fondest memories were more like moments of craziness and laughter. Mitch and I were known for “accidentally” dropping bottle rockets in our campfires and watching people scatter as they shot in all directions. Mitch would push me to swim through rapids, raft over waterfalls, and to jump off cliffs in a way that I would never have done without him. Mitch had no fear and loved every minute of life. I could go on and on with stories of the good times I had with him. Also, away from the boys, I know that my wife would say that Mitch was a kind hearted gentleman. She made a point to tell me that one time when he stayed over at my house; that he was a real gentleman and very appreciative of her for her hospitality as he stayed there. I think what really hit me the hardest about the loss of my friend was this love for other people and his energized outlook on life. The times we hung out were so memorable; he was always so happy and he always treated me as if I was his best friend and brother. The more I have met Mitch’s other friends I have learned that this is how he treats everybody. Just to see the videos after the funeral service of Mitch on mission’s trips and being involved in youth groups impressed me like I have never been. It was no surprise, just a joy to see. Once again he is pushing me to a new level, and this time it is to improve my witness as I learn who I am to be in Christ. I know from knowing Mitch that God wants me to bring that extra level of hard work, energy, love, and friendship to my ministry as I witness to my brothers and sisters in Christ. In memory, I miss you brother.

Staci Hoover (Mitch’s Cousin)

I am the oldest cousin on our side of the family. I vividly remember being jealous of the slew of girls and boys that were born close together. I remember organizing the Christmas plays (Mitch made the spaziest baby Jesus ever!) as well as being a human jungle gym. Jeff, Mitch and my broher Kevin would run around like maniacs. The flashback of those moments stir up fond and random memories. I remember Mitch’s bowl haircut, his boundless energy, how lean and muscular he was as a kid. I remember ever time he walked it seemed like his bounce was so full of energy that a simple step just wouldn’t do. One family Chrismas when Mitch was a junior high I remember him sharing through tears with the family how much he loves his mother and wants her to be healed from lupus. Mitch was so much more than that jump in his step; his heart was one of profound love for those around him. I had never seen that side of him until that Christmas evening a dceade ago. How lucky was I.

As a teen, I was so full of adolescent angst (sorry mom and dad!). Although I accepted the Lord at a young age I didn’t claim His Promises for my own until my early 20’s. I feel connected to Mitch because his path was a bit rocky as well. In the end that faith he claimed was so strong and so evident, instead of being bowled over my Mitch’s presence, I was bowled over by the presence of God working through Mitch.

The evening of Mitch’s passing; my Auntie called and said that Mitch was in Heaven. I layed on our cold kitchen floor for a good hour in shock. The Lord wanted Him.

Mitch was active in many ways athletically. As an athlete myself, how can I continue Mitch’s legacy by using my athletic talents? I will be honoring Mitch by doing a triathlon to help raidse money for his foundation. I realize that if Mitch were still with us today he would call me a complete idiot for what I’m about to take on! Those honest, feisty comment are something I miss. This one’s for you Mitch, I will take talents God has given me, much like you and finish the race we are called to complete.

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait oon the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will Walk and not grow faint.

Bryan Darge (Friend)

Mitch Swaback was one of the most unique persons you could have ever met. If you had had the opportunity to meet him or spend time alone with him you would know that his energy just seemed boundless, as if his own skin couldn’t contain the amount of energy and life that existed inside of him. I do not know how anyone who knew Mitch could not be impacted by him. It seemed that every time you were with him it was as if his life energy would either energized you or you became exhausted just trying to keep up with him.

I had the opportunity to share with Mitch’s dad Bob about the uncanny ability he had with things. I’m not talking about the ability he had of bringing some kind of damage to every car he ever drove it seemed like. We were on a jobsite and we needed to get into this room, but the door was locked with one of those numbered locks. Amazingly, Mitch figured out the number combinations and unlocked the door. We were amazed and asked Mitch how he did it, and of course he didn’t know. But then, in true Mitch fashion, he let the door close, and it locked. But not to worry though, Mitch figured out that combination, not just once – but twice, it was totally amazing and to this day I still shake my head in wonder. But it’s one of those great memories I have of Mitch that not only makes me laugh every time I think about it, but in my mind it was one of those defining moments of Mitch that just seemed to sum him up. One never knew how Mitch made it through sometimes, but no matter what it just seemed he always found a way to some how succeed. I always had the feeling that the hand of God was constantly working overtime to help him.

Under that tough exterior Mitch liked to portray, was a very generous and tender heart. He was the only other person, whom I knew, who shared with me in seeing my wife baptized at the end of a church service one Sunday afternoon. Instead of leaving the church right after the service over, Mitch graciously stayed around to watch her baptism.

Mitch is already tremendously missed. His high energy impact on everyone around him just cannot be understated. Mitch seemed to be the conduit that kept everyone around him together and positive, and there was no pretension about him. I am thankful to God for the brief period of time that I had of knowing Mitch, and I look forward to, as do so many others, of getting one of his big bear hugs in heaven one day.