Last summer a client who has since become a friend of mine handed me a small silver box. We were sitting in his office when he handed it to me as tears gently filled his eyes. Tears filled my eyes, too. At some point during Mitchell’s viewing he asked for permission to take my son’s fingerprint because he had a gift in mind for my family. So much was happening I had all but forgotten about his request.

I remember the mounting panic I felt when the funeral director said they were going to shut Mitchell’s casket for the last time and asked us to say our final goodbyes. I draped over my son’s cold body and wept. Even though I knew he was gone, I didn't want him to be … and I wasn't ready for the finality of it all. At the time I didn't realize my sobs were audible even though they were quiet as a whisper – and frankly I hadn't cried like that since I was a young child. The viewing room, filled with the noise and chatter of 80 family members was suddenly hushed. Unaware that my faint whimpers had put in motion I soon realized the room was completely silent. I had never witnessed such reverence. I hope to never see such reverence again ... at least not on my family's behalf.

So as my friend handed me this silver box my mind went back to that day when I, a grown man, was reduced to rubble. My hands began to shake as I remembered he’d done something special. Part of me was afraid to see what it was. As I carefully pulled the ribbons back he told me that a few others from his office (who have also become dear friends of mine) pitched in to pay for this most unique memorial of my son. I was humbled and grateful.

As I peered into the box I discovered some small metal medallions each bearing Mitchell’s tender fingerprint. Evidence my son lived. My friend said this gift was inspired by an essay I wrote entitled “Fingerprints on the Wall” … and that this gift is a reminder that while Mitchell’s fingerprints may no longer grace the walls of my home, they will forever be etched in my heart.

Later that evening I took my family to the cemetery and we sat on the cool grass and talked about Mitch a while. We laughed and cried and each expressed how grateful we were to have him in our lives. Soon everyone became quiet and thoughtful – our hearts lay low because we missed our son and brother. I then placed this silver box on the grass and described to my wife and kids we each received a special gift in honor of Mitch. I could see in their faces a sorrow that was as unique as their very person. Ethan misses Mitch differently than Wyatt or Laura-Ashley. Natalie and I miss our son in ways that are as unique as our relationship with him. I have come to understand there are some feelings that defy description – and grief is one of them.

As I opened this box once again my hands trembled a moment but then became steady. They trembled at first because I was a father in pain, but they became steady because I was also a father who loved his family. 

As my wife and children carefully examined their gifts, each deeply touched, I was grateful for my loving, compassionate friends who wanted us to know they cared … and gave us something to remember. And my son and the lessons on love and faith he taught me are gifts I shall long remember and hold close to my heart.