I remember watching my sweet wife’s expression when she first laid eyes on Mitch in the delivery room. She immediately wept tears of joy and was overcome with a love that transcends words – a love only a mother can know. I cried watching her love him – I was so happy. Soon I got to hold our little baby for the first time; he was so tiny and I marveled at the miracle of life. I loved him the moment I laid eyes on him – for he was my son.

It is so hard to say goodbye after 10 years of life and love. I wish I had the power to heal him. I wish I could have traded places with my son. 

I will never forget a tender conversation I had with Mitch just after he returned home from the hospital to die. I was tucking him in and he wanted me to cuddle with him for a while. As I lay by my broken son, we gazed into each other’s eyes and had the most soulful exchange I have ever experienced. I told Mitch that while I had been scrambling to find a way to save him, it was he who was saving me. With tears in my eyes, I thanked my little boy for being such a good example to our family and for inspiring me to be a better daddy, husband and person. Mitch cried and told me how happy he was and that he felt loved. With a kiss to his forehead my little boy continued to cry happy tears and tenderly burrowed his frail body into mine and drifted off to sleep. I wept a strange potpourri of tears that night – and many nights thereafter. Little Mitch was then, and remains today, the most profound and painful gift of my life. And though I journey through the wilderness of grief, I’m on my way, but I’m not there yet.

There is nothing linear about grief. I have often heard “time heals all” as though that glib phrase should give peace of mind or assuage a grieving heart. At least for me, that phrase has little to no meaning – and in some cases it does more harm than good. I would be quite content to never hear that phrase again. Time alone is no healing agent; that is a loosely written fiction. I believe healing has less to do with the passage of time but rather, like all things in life, it’s what we do with our time that matters. Surely time is necessary, but it is a minor ingredient. If I spend my time finding ways to bind my wounds and dress them with healing things – I am more likely to accelerate my path to recovery. On the other hand, if I mask my pain or agitate tender wounds, they may never close or heal. Time is a neutral thing – it’s what I do with it that matters.

I am on my way to healing, but I’m not there yet. I don’t know that I’ll ever fully recover from the loss of my son. What I can say is today is better than yesterday; not because time has simply passed but because I am allowing myself to do what I must – to accept my sorrows, and to not run from them but rather let pain take its course. I am learning to grieve in my own way, to hurt as long as I need to, to cry often (and I cry often), to write and remember everything that comes to mind. And, of course, I pray. I pray for peace and understanding. I pray also that my son knows how much I love and miss him. What I wouldn't do to hold him for 5 minutes. 

I recently read a saying, “Those who mistake success for significance, will lead a deeply unfulfilled existence.” I pray I will never confuse the two. I would sooner give someone a boost, a smile or a loving hand than fill my wallet with that which does not satisfy. After all, you can’t fill an empty soul with empty things. 

Little Mitch, my broken son, has taught me how to truly live ... to think less on the things I get and more on what I give. For my little boy had nothing to his name, save some little toys and modest clothes, his material things were plain. If he had nothing but gave so much, I have much to learn from him. For he lived a quiet life of significance and my heart he did truly win.

I’m on my path to healing, the end I cannot see, for the wilderness of grief seems to stretch out to forever, even to infinity. Please be patient with me my son … for I am broken, too, just in different ways than you. I’m on my way, but I’m not there yet.