This was the summer we took our kids park hopping. I am sure many others do this, but it was a special family tradition we liked to call our own. Each Monday evening we’d pack a picnic and drive to some random, undiscovered park and explore the jungle gyms and grassy fields and have dinner there. Because each park was unique it never got old. 

Mitch had the most endearing, mischievous side to him. Though I am terrified of spiders, I find myself catching and keeping them to study and observe. Mitch, knowing my fear of spiders, would often put large plastic spiders in strange places around the house. He would never put them in obvious places, like in the middle of a room for all to see. Instead, he put them in the shadows, barely out of view … or in corners and other places you would most likely see them. I fell for every one of my son’s little traps. When I would stumble into one I would always scream out in terror – only to hear Mitch down the hall or in another room giggling that I fell for another one of his shenanigans.

On this evening we were visiting some undiscovered park. Little Mitch saw that Ethan was about to drink from a fountain. Knowing the water pressure was unusually high he quickly approached Ethan from behind and turned the water on full blast, squirting his brother in the face. Mitch ran away laughing. Ethan was a good sport and laughed with him. They were the best of friends. 

My memories with my family are as warm to my soul today as the evening sun was on my face back then. 

I've never felt it a burden to spend time with my family. To the contrary, I have always considered time with them an investment that would pay a lifetime of dividends. When I look at images like this, and remember those good times, I cash one of those emotional checks and my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude. 

Perfect moments, you know … the kind you wish you could bottle up and save forever, they come and go so quickly. I wish they’d stay forever – but I know that’s unreasonable. I guess that’s why I’m always on the hunt for them. I suppose, after all, that is how it should be … because what is rare is valuable. To think that our children are more than rare … they are unique in all the universe … which makes them valuable beyond mortal description.

Just last night I took Laura-Ashley on a daddy-daughter date. We went to dinner and a movie and had a great time talking. As we drove home we passed the cemetery and she said when she takes the bus home from school she’s always sure to sit on the side of the bus where she can see Mitch. I smiled and said, “Mitch sure loved you, Ash.”

We both talked about her little brother for a while; we laughed at the funny things he did and said and recalled our favorite adventures together as a family. I wasn't sad (well, deep inside I’ll always be sad that he is gone) … but my heart was so happy and it was overflowing with love and appreciation for my family. I was grateful that I had Mitch – even if only for 10 years. At the same time I was grateful I had Laura-Ashley – and that she is turning into a wonderful young woman with whom I am so proud. I told my daughter how much I loved her and how proud I was of her. I hope she felt the meaning behind my words – for words, too, are mortal and flawed. 

I am grateful for perfect moments back then and today. I do all that I can to scoop them up and treasure them before they evaporate. And while my cup is cracked and tattered with grief and weakness, it still runneth over … far beyond what I deserve. And I am grateful.