Yesterday was a day of laughter and smiles, memories and gratitude. Before the sun was about to set I asked my oldest son, Ethan, if he wanted to go on a quick adventure with me. He said “sure!” and we drove off in search of an empty field. I had suspected we’d find some unique, natural light as a storm had broken and the sun was beginning to fall behind the hills. Sure enough, we chased the light and saw a most unique sight. I couldn't help but think this photo I took of my son a metaphor for a great many things.

Ethan and I started to talk about life. Often, on his own, Ethan will bring Mitch up in conversation. Talking about our fallen family member is neither forbidden nor encouraged … we allow our family to talk about whatever, whenever. If something on their mind or heart, they’re free to speak it without judgement, prejudice or impatience. 

He said, “Dad, I think I know why I was born into this family. Well, at least one of the reasons …” Ethan thinking deeply about his present and his future, continued, “I think I was supposed to have Mitch as my brother so he could teach me things I needed to know.” Ethan loved Mitch; they were the best of friends and had a lot in common. When I think of the many tender mercies along this journey, the pairing of these two young boys as brothers is nothing short of divine. They did so much for each other. Though I frequently sorrow over the loss of Mitch, I am eternally grateful he was part of my family’s life.

After our father-son adventure last night, we retired to our rooms. I was awoken in the middle of the night on another matter - and I didn't really go back to sleep. I thought to write my son a message the likes of which I wished had been written to me when I was his age. These are some of the things I wished I had known at a younger age:

Seek purpose over pleasure. Pleasure and momentary happiness are always, always fleeting; as opposed to things eternal, like purpose and meaning. If you seek after purpose and meaning, you’ll learn to see past hardships and sorrows; undaunted by troubles you’ll encounter today or any tomorrow. 

Despite your best efforts, life will be hard. In fact, it may get more difficult than you have a mind to imagine. Things may go from bad to terribly, horribly wrong. Just remember you are eternal. You are not your body – you are a soul capable of a greatness that, as yet, you do not have a mind to know. Every mortal moment is an education to your soul. Listen, watch and learn. And, if things go terribly, horribly wrong … remember that, in the end, all things will give you experience and will be for your good. Just hang on. Even if only by a pebble. Hang on.

You’ll invariably meet people in your life who’ll try to hurt you. These people will confuse the darkness in their own hearts for your motives. Always remember what Anias Nin wisely observed: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” You may encounter some who foam at the mouth in rage toward you. Though bizarre, ignore them. They will be as a lit match: full of fury and fire for a moment, but short lived. Let there instead be a fire in your soul – not of hate and fury, but of love and light. It may blind those in darkness, but will help those with sight. Not for any reason should you hide your light.

Be gentle and kind to others. Your little brother taught our family that at the end of the day, if you are unkind, nothing else you do in life will matter. 

Although the skies may draw black as night and storms may threaten to devour you … know that you are loved: both by a mother and father on earth and by heaven above. You are, dear child, utterly and completely loved.

This and so much more, I would write my son to prepare his mind and heart for the for the years to come. 

My son Ethan’s journey is inextricably woven with Mitchell’s Journey … and not because I write here, on Facebook. Though I write intimately of my grief journey, our lives at home are not saturated in sorrow. Rather, we are happy, moving forward and finding purpose in each day. Ethan’s journey is enjoined with Mitchell’s Journey because he was his brother and his life and death has altered the course of ours. In fact, Mitchell’s Journey is everyone’s journey who might choose to take something from it. 

As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island” … to his insightful prose, I would add we are all part of something so infinitely grand … a spiritual ecosystem so majestic in scope and purpose … were our eyes unveiled, we would finally understand things as they really are and we would weep tears of love and gratitude. We would love our enemies, do good to those that hurt us, and fall on our knees in sorrow for those who we might have hurt. We would accept our life's struggles as a necessary crucible for growth and change.