I don't know how my wife did it - she was so very strong. Ordinarily I can compartmentalize my emotions because I have a deeply rooted belief that cool heads and calm hearts are more apt to make the best decisions. That mindset has served me well over the years but the prospect of losing my son ripped my heart out and threw it over the hills into a briar patch of molten sorrow. Happiness seemed a universe away, perhaps forever out of reach.

In the face of my son’s death my wife put her emotions to the side and learned all she could to help Mitch. She was every-bit a hero to her family and son. I tried to be strong but when I looked at my wife I quickly realized the sheer giant I had married so many years ago. I truly stand deep in her shadow.

We had been at the hospital a few days and learned Mitchell’s life was about to end. My wife and I were mortified and unprepared for the descending hell that was thrust upon us. We told our older children the news but decided to tell Wyatt at a later time – for he was so young and we didn't want him to scare his older brother by saying anything prematurely. All Wyatt knew at the time was that Mitch was in trouble and very sick. Within less than a month of this photo my sweet little boy would pass away and my heart would be lost in a wilderness of sorrow. I would need to find my way out … somehow … some way.

The other day my wife and I sat at the foot of our bed and started talking about how much we miss our son – I saw a grief in her eyes that was just as tender as the day we lost Mitch. She told me how hard it has been for her and that she is worried memory will fade. I knew exactly what she meant. Her face expressed a grief that came from the deepest wells of human experience. We wept together – for we both wade in those heavy, dark waters. How, then, are we to find happiness when someone was so woven into our own happiness is gone? 

Despite the profound burden of loss I carry, I believe I’m entering a new phase of grief – not because a year has passed and we've crossed some magical threshold, or that others tell me it is time to move on. The truth is, you don’t move on and leave grief behind … you just learn to carry it differently. But something is changing inside me and that change is good. I believe the same is true of my wife. Oh, we still hurt every bit as much as the day we lost our son, but we are taking on new feelings that seem to be a counterbalance to sorrow. We have felt genuine, liberating, and fulfilling happiness. 

Over the last few days Ethan and I practiced Lacrosse and I marveled at his awesomeness, Wyatt and I made some funny videos that had us crying because we were laughing so hard, and Laura-Ashley and I talked for a few hours while she practiced driving. These simple moments with my family have brought me so much joy. I love spending time with my wife and children and I would rather be with them than any other humans on the face of the planet … and not a day passes they don’t hear it 100 times. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for my family – and that brings me deep happiness; a kind of happiness that never wears out or fades, never goes out of fashion, a happiness that is endless and enduring.

While I have discovered happiness again there remains a hole, a missing soul that I miss terribly. In the absence of my precious son, I will continue to explore my joys and sorrows. Be warned, I still have things to share that will be hard to read. Some have suggested I share only happy moments moving forward – but that I will not do. Hell happened. And I will talk about it. My hope at the end of this Journey, however long this road, is that through exploring the many aspects of grief and sorrow others may find my clumsy mileposts and offer some relief they are not alone. Each journey is so different, each sorrow so unique, but perhaps Mitchell’s Journey can help as others navigate their own troubles.

Notwithstanding my deep sorrows I have found happiness. Not because I felt entitled to it, but because I sought after it. True indeed are those prophetic words, “seek and ye shall find” for in them are required actions that unlock truths and make them mine.