Laura-Ashley really loved little Mitch. She cared for him on a deeply personal level, and Mitch felt it. Mitch really loved her, too. I would often find him hanging out with Laura-Ashley just to talk. She always offered him her time and most importantly her attention. Nothing shows love like caring attention.

I took this photo late March, 2012. Sunday the 25th, to be exact. Winter’s bitter chill was retreating and the first real glimpse of spring had arrived. Natalie and the kids were excited to go outside and get some fresh air, so we went to a small park just down the street. 

When I think back on this time in my life, things were especially hectic and my mind was weighed by a million things pulling for my attention. I had just returned from a trip to Honduras and had a lot of catching up to do and I could have told Natalie I was too busy to go with them. I am afraid, as much as I’ve tried to be with my family, I may have said that more than my broken heart wants to admit. Surely it isn't reasonable to be everywhere, all of the time; but if I’m honest with myself, I know I could have done better. I wish I would have done better … and from now on, I will try to do better. Looking back on our lives is always a tricky thing … and it seems everyone’s a genius in retrospect. Hindsight displays everything so clearly: how much time we didn't have, the better path or smarter choices and the times I should have recorded my children’s voices. Like an old film in the attic, I replay my memories, my loves, my joys, my heartaches and regrets. I must be careful to not feed my regrets – for they can devour me if I'm not careful.

I believe regret should hurt just enough so we know not to do [whatever] again; almost like touching a hot stove … heat enough to teach, but not enough to scar or debilitate.

I’m glad I went with my family this day because I was able to take some once-in-a-lifetime photos of our kids playing, Natalie nurturing and Mitch smiling. Had my priorities been on important but lesser things, I would have missed out on life’s most beautiful things. My reward for time well spent are warm memories and photos like this ... which make my heart sing. These two children taught me something about love this day.

Two months from this photo, almost to the day, we would learn Mitchell's heart was broken and he was in trouble. I made this video that very night: vimeo.com/42931543 

In less than a year, everything I knew and loved would be turned upside down and my son would pass away. Ask me now the value of this day ...

I wonder how often I have been suckered into believing only the big, rare things are once-in-a-lifetime. Mitch taught me, in the most painful way, every moment of every day is once-in-a-lifetime. I don’t get to go back and do this, or any time over. Time passed is time past. All I have to take with me into the future are the memories I made ... and they can soothe like silk or draw out like the sharpest of blades.

When I see this photo I feel more love than sorrow … and like the hot stove, I hurt for a moment, forever reminded there’s no promise of tomorrow. My wife, children and fallen son are once-in-a-lifetime blessings that I won't squander, not a single one. 

Mitch taught me to drink life in like a thirsty traveler: for when the journey’s done, it’s done. And that sounds like once-in-a-lifetime thing, if I ever heard one.