We had just gone to the mountains to take some family photos. This was the day we took our last family portrait, save the one taken by a dear follower 2 days before Mitch passed away. That was a family portrait of a different caliber – one that we reverence. 

I generally avoid posed photos because I much prefer raw captures of life unrehearsed. Besides, nothing is more fatiguing to others than to have someone say “Okay, everyone stop what you’re doing and look at me so I can take a semi-candid photo of you smiling.” I would rather photograph someone laughing at the dinner table, food-in-mouth, than take a staged photo where hair and makeup are perfect but illusory. Over the years I have captured tears and triumphs, sadness and glee … moments that are difficult to look at and send me to my knees. But these images are my life, they are what I see – and I will always take them unapologetically.

So, on this day, for some reason we felt it important to take some family photos and I am glad we did. What you see here is a photo of me taking my daughter’s portrait on the left, and the exact photo I took on the right. I was unaware Mitch had another camera trained on me and he took this photo of me taking a photo. Mitch had seen previous images I had taken in Nicaragua where one of my colleagues took a photo of me taking a photo and I had done something similar to what you see here. I remember pointing to that Nicaragua photo set and saying, “Mitch, can you see what a difference perspective can make?” I continued to tell my son that so often with life it isn’t what you see, it’s how you see it. Mitch, having seen what I had earlier done tried to recreate that same juxtaposition. Well done, son. I miss you.

I have always wanted my children to learn how to see with their true eyes; to understand a fundamental truth … that so often it isn't what we see that matters, but how we see it. So much of what plagues humanity, it seems, is seeing things from a single, myopic perspective. There is a saying that goes, “Those that hurt others, hurt.” Perhaps the solution to those who compulsively gossip, who say and do harmful things isn't to retaliate in-kind, but to recognize they are hurting, too, and seek to discover the sliver in their soul that is causing them pain. And if we’re listening, if we stop looking only at what we see on the surface and change how we see, perhaps we can truly help others. I have discovered the best way to disarm someone is to love them.

It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. In the case of these images, neither are wrong, they just tell a different story. And although this photo is not of my son, one of these photos was taken by him and tells a story about my boy – what he chose to see. So, this image serves as a reminder to mind my perspective, always. 

I can chose to look up on the death of my innocent son as a horror story and raise my fist toward God. That act of defiance will not change a thing, nor will it change Him; instead turning my back toward my Father would change me … even poison me. I know that there is a greater plan at work, so I will endure whatever lessons patiently. I just wish it didn't hurt so much. Yet, I sense there will come a day that I will yet see my sorrows differently. They will no longer be the source of my heartache, but the contrast needed to truly appreciate that sacred reunion with my son; for I cannot know great happiness without knowing great sorrow.

As I travel through my wilderness of grief, I will always look to the heavens to find my way. I will search for, count and chart our tender mercies as an evidence of God’s love – despite what we are asked to suffer. And though I am certain to see more sorrow in the years ahead, I will remember that it isn't what I see that matters, but how I see it. 

Thank you Mitch, for taking this photo and reminding me so poignantly.