Yesterday we said goodbye to my mother and step-father after our annual Easter trip in Southern Utah. Visiting them has become a much-treasured tradition we sort of stumbled into by accident a few years ago. Aside from home, this was the place Mitch loved to be above all other places.

Like a powerful breeze, as if from a storm, I felt my memories press against me. Sometimes I had to brace myself to keep from falling. Every tree, every rock and shadow brought back vivid memories of my son there. I could almost hear his voice in the distance. So rich are my memories sometimes it feels as though I can turn around and see my son smiling at me. But he is not here, nor there. And I will not see him again – at least not in this life – save only in my dreams.

I cannot step foot in this place and not get lost in memory. Nostalgia pushes and tugs at my heart reminding me what once was. I also feel deep appreciation for what still is. Mostly, I feel gratitude that I had my son in the first place – no matter how much losing him hurts. 

Memory can be beautiful or frightful: like hot coals aglow, I can gather them to warm my soul or, if not properly handled, they can hurt and damage me. 

I know I’m on the path to healing because visiting this place wasn’t as painful as it was last year. For last year I cried. And I cried. And I cried. This year I still cried – but not near as much. Like a healing wound, my heart was still tender and it will ever be so. 

After we said our goodbyes I took a photo of an incoming storm. Mitch loved weather. This was the kind of thing he would have noticed and captured with his iPod. I took this shot and thought of him. Were he here, Mitch would have taken this same shot and thought of me. 

Soon I will turn Mitchell’s iPod on and explore the world through his eyes: the photos he took and the movies he made are waiting to be explored. Until now I haven’t had the courage to go there. I have been afraid, for new grief lies in wait there. It is sure to be a painful place to visit. 

Though my heart remains tender the path to healing is taking me there with a warm soul.