I took this photo at a stop light as we were on our way to meet with Mitchell’s cardiologist. We were just told over the phone (at our request) he was at risk of sudden death. Frightened by the dark path that lay before our feet, we arranged to have Mitch spend the afternoon with his aunt (Sonya) so we could speak candidly about our son, his fate, and explore anything we could do to help him. 

By the look on my dear wife’s face I could tell she was worried in ways only a mommy can know. I also tried to keep my broken heart from falling apart and I was fumbling, all over the place. Our precious baby was mortally wounded by DMD. This little boy we saw grow in our arms had also grown deep roots in our hearts and it pained us to see his life cut down by an invisible enemy that knows no mercy. None at all.

Seeing the look of deep worry on my wife’s face I grabbed her hand and said, “Honey, I don’t know what the future holds but I’m with you, no matter what.” We both cried softly on the way to the hospital. There we were … two adults who, in our children’s eyes, were supposed to know all the answers. We were supposed to keep our children safe. Yet we were frightened children ourselves. We were afraid of the dark … and that’s all we saw at the time … nothing … just darkness; for everything was unknowable. 

A few years ago I had a conversation with an old friend just after we learned Mitchell’s heart was not doing well. With love and empathy in his voice he said “Life sure has a way of tenderizing us, doesn't it?” I turned to him and responded firmly but kindly, “Oh, and sometimes it pulverizes us.” At the time I had no idea how pulverized my heart would become. 

So as we sat in the car, anxious to learn what was happening with our dying son, I remembered that years ago I made a promise to my wife that I would be the best husband I knew how to be; that I would never leave her. I was certainly no knight in shining armor and what I brought to our marriage was a great deal of imperfection … but I had a sincere desire to love and honor my wife. I still do. I’m not always the best at it, but I sure try. I’m pretty sure there’s a special place in heaven for people like Natalie who put up with people like me.

Despite my youthful fantasies that marriage would be easy, I have discovered marriage is hard. And a good marriage is even harder because it takes effort to rise above the routines that quietly erode relationships. I realized if I was not careful, the little things that used to make my heart skip a beat would suddenly have no heartbeat … and one day I might wake up and realize all I ever loved is lost. I never wanted that to happen to my family so I always tried to defend against that. Though we have had ups and downs and struggled, like every couple, we have always tried to be there for each other, no matter what.

And when death came violently clawing at our door and darkness settled in, we had a candle in the wilderness. We could see, under the dim light of faith, the path beneath our feet. That candle of love and light came from my beautiful wife and our Father’s heavenly sight. 

The path is still dark, and sometimes grief makes the path darker, still. Though I wish to see where our journey will end, a step or two before me is all that I can see … and that is good enough for me. I won’t give up. No matter what.