When my kids were especially little I started a game called “Gut Busters” – which was basically human bumper cars. The title of this game became something of a metaphor for the participant and observer – whether through smashing or laughing, it was a gut-busting experience. This idea isn't new – but to my kids it was –and that was all that really mattered. We would stuff pillows from the couch in their pajamas and they would run into each other and fall to the floor. Everyone would giggle and laugh and it was a great way to get their wiggles out before they went to sleep.

It was the evening of my birthday (2007) when these sweet boys wanted to have an honorary smash-up-derby. I’ll never forget how much Wyatt looked like SpongeBob, how energetically Ethan flexed his little chicken wings, and how precious Mitch, who always felt physically awkward, pointed his finger in the air meaning to do a thumbs up. Mitch wanted to be strong and powerful like his brothers – but in the end, his life traded physical power for a power of a different kind.

A few weeks prior to this moment with my boys, I stumbled into something songwriter Guy Lombardo said, “Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” For some reason, that quote pressed against me like a cold breeze and I couldn't shake the feeling the hour was later than I knew. Yet, there was no indication Mitch was in any trouble of any kind. For my son death would surely visit – but it wasn't supposed to happen for another 20 years. It would only be 5 years from this photo before we would learn Mitchell’s heart was beginning to fail. Less than 6 years before the end.

Not knowing the perils ahead, we took heed to those quiet whispers that told us the hour was later than we knew. Though my heart cries out today over the death of my son and I am very much pained therewith, I am grateful we responded to those whispers and drank in the moments the best we knew how.

Do I have regrets for time poorly spent? Absolutely. But mistakes are part of our human experience. I carry regret the same way I might walk away from a conversation saying to myself, palm to forehead, “Oh, I should have thought to say ____.” I don’t carry regret as a burden or an instrument to lash self-punishment. Rather, my regrets serve as a reminder to do better next time.

Were I to live out my days in regret for the things I could have (or should have) done better, I would not have the presence of mind to enjoy life. Though I carry the weight of grief and sorrow over the loss of my son, a weight so heavy I can scarcely shoulder, I have 3 other children whom I love just as much. And I will enjoy my time with them while they are with me. Because, even still, the hour is later than I think.