Earlier this spring my wife grabbed my arm and escorted me to a corner of our home quietly pointing to a small gap in some rocks and said, “Look.” Because we live on the very edge of our valley, at the foot of the desert mountains, I thought there might be a tarantula or snake den or something strange I was being asked to catch … so I carefully peered into the shadows of the rocks – unsure what mystery lurked below. To my surprise I saw something tender and it grabbed my heart. 

Tucked carefully in a tiny cavern within a rock window well was a stash of Mitchell’s favorite water balloon grenades. He placed them there the summer of 2012 to keep others from wasting his prized ammo. I still remember the epic water battle our kids had that summer – Mitch giggled a lot but he was also a fierce competitor. When I saw this weathered plastic bag I could almost hear, like a faint whisper, all of the neighbor kids and Mitch laughing and playing in the background. This was a relic from the last of the water wars that year. I thought little Mitch had used all of his balloons and was surprised to see this little treasure of water weapons hidden in the rocks by his little hands.

Natalie and I stood in reverence at this unexpected discovery and our eyes welled with tears. We felt a strange blend of grief and love at the sight of this little breadcrumb our son left behind. This time there was more feelings of love than grief. But there was still grief … there will always be grief. Like an archaeologist yearning to know the story behind a long-lost artifact, I wondered what my little boy was thinking when he hid away his balloons. Was it a fallback stash if he lost ground in one of his battles or was it his primary weapons depot? All I know is he loved those water balloons – and because he loved them, I loved them, too.

Having lost my little boy I have become sensitive to the breadcrumbs he left behind, for each of them tell a story – and those that don’t will leave me forever wondering. 

I know this isn't the last of the breadcrumbs, either. There will be more unexpected discoveries in the months and years ahead and I don’t believe all of them will be painful. Like this little discovery I believe they will be more lovely than languished. 

Though I always tried to be an attentive husband and father I know I have missed out on breadcrumbs of days past. I know this because whenever I found myself in trouble … whether from a strained relationship or almost any difficulty, it was because I didn't notice the breadcrumbs others left behind. There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, “There are no secrets of the soul conduct does not reveal.” Little Mitch taught me to look and listen and notice the breadcrumbs. I have a long way to go – but at least I know what I need to work on. I hope to always be alert to breadcrumbs and other things, the kinds of breadcrumbs you can hold in your hands or see with your eyes and the other kind you can only feel with your heart. 

Everything is in the breadcrumbs.