As we walked out of the viewing room with my two boys pushing Mitchell’s casket down the hall, I found myself terrified to turn the corner and walk in the chapel where hundreds of people waited for the funeral to begin. 

When I was 18 years old I did the same thing, only I was following my father. I had never really been to a funeral before. I mean, I've been to funerals as a child, but I was never really there because those who passed were people I didn't know and, as young boys, playing with long-lost cousins was all we ever seemed to care about. So suddenly I found myself actually there … at a funeral … following my father who was a broken, lonely man and had become a dear friend to me. I had grown to care so much about him and he was suddenly gone. When we entered the chapel everyone rose to their feet out of respect. I was unprepared. I didn't know that’s what people do and I was taken aback by all that came in honor of my father. Through tears and blurred vision I made my way to the pew. And thus began my first journey through the maze of grief. 

So, 22 years later I found myself once again at a funeral … reluctant, heavy with grief, this time following my precious son. I was afraid to turn the corner because I knew what would happen and I didn't think I could witness so many rise to their feet in honor of my broken son. By my side was my tender wife who was also broken and I didn't know how to help pick up the pieces and put her back together again. How I wanted to …

As we were about to enter the chapel I desperately wanted to stop the procession, pick up my son and put an end to the nightmare … to call off the joke or the misdiagnosis because surely there had been a big mistake. Like a horrifying dream from which I couldn't wake, a part of me wanted to race him back to the hospital and infuse his body with warm blood and start his weary heart again. After all, he was just with us days ago – why couldn't he be with us once again? I was desperate to hold Mitch, and kiss his neck and his face and love him like I didn't know to do … until this very moment. These are but some of the games the mind plays when processing the impossible. 

It seems to me that many good people on the other side of grief, the observers, can sometimes have it all backward. Somehow they’re tempted to think, as I used to think, grief is greatest leading up to and at the moment of death … perhaps a few weeks after. But all of that is easy, by comparison. Grief, with all its weight and fury, takes its crushing toll in the emptiness that remains, in the dull silence long after our loved ones have gone. 

We are fast approaching the first anniversary of my son’s passing. I still have much to say about grief and sorrow, faith and family, love and loss. I have much to say about God and His tender mercies – for we have seen many. And though I cry out in grief and sorrow [and oh how I cry, and oh how I grieve] I thank God I was blessed with my son. 

Some of what I have written and will soon post will be the rawest of my writings yet. They will be hard and will surely draw the criticism of armchair pontiffs and self-appointed moralists. But this is my story and my beliefs – and I share them without apology.

Lest anyone wonder that we wallow in grief, rest assured where we stand today is different than where we stood last week. Each day is a struggle, each night laden with grief. But we are turning corners, step by step, and making progress week by week.