I loved it when Mitch sat on my shoulders as a little boy. When I look at this photo I can almost feel his little hands on my face again and my heart is awash with love. But then the tears come – I cannot stop them – and they wet my face and remind me of what once was, but is no longer. I still close my eyes and reach to feel his little hands on my face sometimes. 


On this day Mitch asked to sit on my shoulders so he could peer over the fence in our back yard and wave goodbye to his big sister who was walking to school. The fence was just tall enough that I couldn't see over it, not even on my tiptoes. But once on my shoulders, Mitch could see the brave new world just over the fence. A world he could always hear but couldn't see. Once on my shoulders he would tell me the things he saw. He would yell out as if to say “Dad, this is awesome! If you could see what I see!”

“A bus!” he would say excitedly. “A twuck!” with another excited burst. To little Mitch the world just over the fence was a smorgasbord of sights and sounds that captured his imagination. When he saw his sister come into view he would bounce up and down on my shoulders and point to her yelling, “I see her! I see her! I wuv you Ash!”

Though I couldn't see his smile with my eyes I could feel his smile with his hands on my face – and my heart grew a foot or two. I then grabbed his hands and pressed them into my face as if to hug him. These are the moments I live for. These are the moments that warm my heart and calm my soul.

My sweet wife, who recognized I was always behind the camera and almost never seen in a scrapbook, took some photos of us that morning. Photos of Mitch and me are rare by comparison to the number of photos I took of everyone else. So I treasure these photos with my son greatly.

We would discover a few weeks from this photo Mitch had a catastrophic muscle-wasting disease that would hurt him, cause great hardship, and eventually take his life. I cannot count the nights I sat at our kitchen table weeping for my son, reading everything I could to understand DMD and trying to prepare for the inevitable journey through the wastelands of grief and sorrow.

I was unaware we were nearing the end of an era for our family. An era of relative peace and ease; an era free of the sorrows we would soon know and then carry the remainder of our days. Oh, I had become acquainted with the sorrows of death – for my father passed when I was 19. But a father is no son; and losing my child has broken me in ways I never imagined. 

My son’s journey has taken me on a most unexpected path – a path I was scarcely prepared to sojourn. Were I given the choice I would have taken any path but this. For I have nearly drown in a sea of sorrow, I have stumbled through my wilderness of grief, and I have peered into the depths of the abyss. The loss of my son has become my Everest and I intend on reaching the summit. 

Perhaps after a trillion of my own tears have fallen to the earth, when my weary legs and broken heart are about to collapse … when I reach the summit of my Everest … perhaps, then, I will begin see what Mitch sees. A brave new world. A world I can hear with my heart – but I cannot now see.