As death circled about, Mitch began to sense the end was coming and started asking questions. Natalie and I did all we could to comfort our son and answer him honestly and compassionately while at the same time not frightening him. 

One evening, while he was home on hospice, Mitch and I were in our little movie room in the basement making popcorn. Mitch sat in a chair next to me because he just wanted to hang out. At one point Mitch pointed to a carbonation machine standing on a counter-top that turns water into soda. Just before he was admitted into the hospital he tried a drink from that machine for the first time. He asked me, “Dad, is that what hurt my heart?” My heart fell to the floor as I slowly knelt down and looked him in the eyes and said, “No, son. I would never let you take anything that would hurt you. Your heart is broken because of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Your heart is a muscle, just like your arms and legs, and it is getting weak because of DMD.” A look of sadness came over his face as he tried to come to grips with some harsh realities. There was a little boy who just wanted to live and love, to raise a family of his own and to be a dad. None of that would happen for him. 

I simply didn't know what hard was until I had to tell my son he was going to die. Every conversation I once thought hard is but a shadow now. A whimper.

Not long after my tender conversation with Mitch, Natalie came into the room and he started asking more questions about life and death. Natalie knelt down and hugged Mitch gently. My little boy leaned his head on his mommy’s shoulder as she comforted him in ways only a mother can. I had to turn my head so I could wipe the tears from my face. Tears that were streaming down my neck.

Over the coming days Mitch would ask questions about what’s on the other side. It is one thing to talk of life after death in church or in the abstract, it is quite another to come face-to-face with it. Death is bewildering. 

As Mitch and our family journeyed through the dark wilderness of fear and loss we had strong impressions that so much more was happening. So much more than we realized. Mitch felt it. Natalie felt it. I felt it. Each independent from one another. Mitch talked about his impressions and quiet whispers to the soul. On a few occasions I shared with him some sacred experiences I have had in my life that have shown me there is life after life. I don’t need to rely on anyone’s beliefs – I know for myself, independent of any external source. I looked Mitch in the eyes and bore my soul to him and assured him that we are not alone. The spirit of those conversations were almost palpable.

I wish such a knowledge lessened the pain of loss. It doesn’t. Although I know some things for sure, that doesn't keep me from missing little Mitch with all of my heart. I long for my son like a weary traveler thirsts for water in a barren desert. It is that longing for him that drives me to live a life such that I might see him again.

In my life’s journey, I have come to understand that to know what is on the other side requires a change from the inside. Though I know certain things to be true, I still have a lot of work to do – so many things to change and mend because I am human, deeply flawed and the most broken of all men. But I try. God knows I try. I pray that I never get swallowed up in pride and lose sight of what’s on the other side.

As I wrote not long after Mitch passed away, “There is a place beyond the hills I cannot see. A place my little boy waits for me. I run to him.”