Mitch had been home about a week and a half and his 5th-grade teacher, Mrs. Masina (on the right) came to visit. With her was also a teacher at the same school, Mrs. Edwards, who was a friend to Natalie. I sat in awe of these two women who took time from their personal lives to show Mitch they cared. They were so sweet to him; although they gave Mitch some thoughtful gifts, the greatest gift they gave him was their love. At the end of the day, things break but love lingers. Love lasts.

As Mrs. Masina left she turned to Mitch and asked if he wanted some homework to do. He smiled softly and nodded as if to say “no thanks”. Everyone chuckled but inside I wished he had homework – for that would have meant he was going back to school and that there was hope he would recover. But he was not ever going back to school and the hope he might beat heart failure and DMD was a distant dream far from reach. 

As we left the hospital the senior cardiologist said with tears in his eyes, “Your job is to take him home and love your little boy with all that you've got. You don’t have much time.” And love Mitch we did, the very best we knew how. 

As these two beautiful women left our home I remember feeling overwhelmed with feelings of love and appreciation for the good people in my son’s life. I was grateful for all of the teachers Mitch had, for they were all loving and kind. But his last teacher, Mrs. Masina, was a special tender mercy in more ways than twenty. She will forever be close to our hearts because of the way she lifted our little son’s heart.

I can’t help but be grateful for what the truly great teachers teach us; the ones who beautifully balance intellect with heart, mind with soul. Mrs. Masina is just such a teacher. I saw a spark in Mitch that I hadn't seen before – a deeper belief in himself – and I believe that spark in my son was because of the way she taught him. What good is knowledge, after all, if we forget what it means to be human? To be human is to be vulnerable, real and feeling – it is to accept ourselves and others as we are, broken and imperfect, and then strive to be a little better each day in our own way. That is what the great teachers teach us.

Mrs. Masina did just that. She not only taught Mitch – but she taught me that there is much more to life than academics. I am grateful for the gentle teachers of the soul: Mrs. Masina and Mitch have been my teachers and I am forever in their debt.

One thing I've learned is the death of a child is emotionally catastrophic. I know of no greater pain. Now that Mitch is gone our family has grueling homework of our own: the homework of learning to live with grief – which, as far as I can tell, is the work of a lifetime. There are no shortcuts. There are no opt-out tests. Every day is a lesson on love and loss, healing a little, crying a lot, and learning to move forward however fast or slow our hearts will take us. 

Because love lasts, so does grief. So long as I love my son I will grieve his loss … and what a terrible grief it is. But grief is the price of love and love is worth every tear, every shard of my broken heart, it is worth the agony of loss. The love in my heart hurts me and heals me all at the same time. I am learning that to hurt is to be human and to heal, even if only a little, is heavenly.