I’ll never forget this moment. A million years will pass, cities will fall and be swallowed up by the sea, and this moment in time will forever be with me. 

The sun was just about to set, the temperature was absolutely perfect and my sweet wife wanted to take our kids to the park so they could enjoy the fresh air – free from the tyranny of frost and snow we had known prior winter months. Natalie, sensing Mitch needed some extra help, lovingly carried our son to the top of the jungle gym and went down a slide with him. She didn't know at the time Mitch had a fatal disease; she just sensed he was special and gave him extra love and care. 

Little Mitch had the cutest voice and giggled as they slid down the slide. I loved seeing his tiny dimpled fingers grasp his mother’s hands. I could tell he felt comforted in Natalie’s arms. I remember getting a little emotional as I took this photo and thought to myself, “It doesn't get any better than this.” Though we were a young family and broke, sometimes wondering how we would pay for diapers, I was the richest man in Babylon. 

It is unrehearsed moments like this, moments of spontaneous love and goodness, that make my heart swell with love and gratitude. 

Just a few weeks after I took this photo we would learn Mitch had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and everything in our world would turn upside down. Grief and sorrow would become our tender tutor – and over many years, even to this day, we would need to learn how to make peace with hurt. 

It wasn't long after this photo I would find myself many late nights weeping at our kitchen table reading what few books were written about our son’s muscle wasting disease. I was desperate to find a way to save my little baby because I loved him so. I also knew my sweet wife, a broken-hearted mommy, wanted to protect our son – and the “fix it” father in me was deeply troubled that I powerless to fix this. 

Though I couldn't stop my son’s body from deteriorating, I knew I had power over some things. I understood I had power over my time and how I chose to invest it. I had power to be in the moment and show love to my family in both word and deed. I had the power to learn rather than languish. To become better, not bitter. I only wish I had power to not hurt so much. I still haven’t figured that out. Perhaps, because to hurt is to be human, I will just need to learn to live with this kind of hurt. As long as I love my son, I will hurt for him.

But, if there is one thing my son has taught me it is: we may not be able to control certain events in our lives, but we can control how we respond to those events and what meaning they have for us. 

I am still sorting things out and trying to find meaning in all that is happening. I suppose that is why I write here, to sort out my sorrows and find meaning in suffering. It is so hard. Sometimes grief comes barging into my heart like a ruthless home invasion. It comes unannounced and I confront it unrehearsed and unprepared. One moment I’m fine and the next moment grief, my fierce goliath, tackles my heart to the ground and I find myself wrestling with intense feelings of panic … that somehow I can still save my son from harm. Then I am smothered with feelings that I failed my son and couldn't save him. Then deep sorrow that he is gone. I am learning to endure and manage those, and many other, awful moments of grief; but they are real and they take my breath from me and break my tender heart just a little more. I have come to learn healing hurts.

Yet, despite my sorrows, which are great, I think back on these unrehearsed moments of love and my heart heals a little, too. I think to myself, “I had that! A loving wife and a precious son; indeed, I’m the lucky one.” 

Then suddenly, to my great relief, I hurt a little less and I feel a little peace.