When my wife and I learned we were expecting our first child I remember being excited at first, then shocked and terrified. In my mind and heart I thought “I’m just a boy myself … how can I possibly be qualified to raise a child?” I was sober and shaken. Having come from a large family, I always wanted children of my own – but I was in my early 20’s and wasn't sure I was mature enough to take on the most important job I will ever have in this life: to raise a child. 

But that fear only lasted about 5 minutes. Maybe 15. 

With each child in the delivery room I became more emotional because I knew that tiny baby swaddled in cloth, eyes barely open and breathing for the first time, would teach me about love and sacrifice and what it means to be a father and a child. By the time we had our youngest son, Wyatt, I wept in the delivery room because I knew what I was in for … and my heart was overflowing with love, gratitude and anticipation. 

This Thanksgiving our kitchen table will have one less person seated there. Mitch always wanted to sit by me, and I always wanted to sit by him. He always reached over to hold my hand while we ate and that melted my heart. His absence will be profoundly felt. I know I will smile … and I know I will cry. But most of all, I will be grateful. I will thank my God for all that I once had, all that I still have, and all that I will yet have. 

This image is so special to me because it is the second-to-last family portrait we have. The last was taken just before Mitch passed away; and that photo is even more sacred. Though both images tug tenderly at my broken heart, they remind me I have much to be thankful for. They remind me of life’s greatest treasure.

And one day, when I see my son again, my gratitude will be so great there won’t be room enough in the universe to contain it.