Mitch loved shenanigans. 

It was a hot summer day. Ethan was opening a present for his birthday when Mitch sneaked behind him and tried to smash a water balloon against his back. Because his arms were already weakened by DMD, Mitch struggled to lift the little water weapon above his shoulders. Lunging his body forward, Mitch hurled the balloon toward his brother with all his might and ran away giggling. I loved the sound of Mitchell’s giggle; endearing as it was contagious.

My little boy never missed an opportunity to live. I don’t mean live as in breathing – though he was very grateful to be alive. I mean to say Mitch never missed an opportunity to be in the moment … to love and laugh and drink life in the best he knew how. 

Sometimes bitter ironies are the strongest teachers.

Grief is another ironic teacher. I have learned, as my friend Pat Furlong (Founder of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy) taught me not long after Mitch passed away, that grief never really goes away. She, being no stranger to grief, told me that grief is a chronic condition: you don’t get over it, you don’t go through it … you just learn to live with it. 

So, I have found grief ironic because while it has the potential to drain joy and life out of living, it has taught me to appreciate life in new and meaningful ways. 

Such is the duality of grief: to be happy and sad … to be whole and broken all at once. Though I may laugh, smile and be filled with joy at any given moment, at the same time I carry the weight of grief … the weight of wanting my son back in my arms. Inside the heart of those who grief is a soul that yearns for joy and happiness, yet sorrows in what is lost. It is to be okay, but not okay … and learning to accept that’s okay. 

That is learning how to live. 

This Memorial Day weekend, I will honor those who fought and died so others may live. At the same time, I will also reverently honor my little boy who fought to stay alive and died ... and in so doing taught me how to live.