I’ll never forget the glow of the evening sun reflecting warmly from my snow-covered windowsill. By this time, we knew our son was at risk of sudden death and that each moment was more precious than the one before. Time was running short and we were very much afraid. So very afraid.

Natalie reached down and grabbed Mitchell's face, looked him in the eye, and told him how much she loved him. I don't know what Mitchell thought or felt at that moment, all I know is my heart grew a foot or two that day. However cold it was outside, I know he felt the warmth of his mother’s love – and Mitchell’s soft smile always set my soul on fire. A testament that gentleness can wield great power.

We knew death was circling our home and would soon thrash and claw at our door – so we just clung to each other and braced for death. Doctors at the time told us there was nothing left to do – that they had done their best. In a few short months from this photo, my little boy’s heart would stop and we would experience the deepest form of human grief. A place so dark, not even the light of noon day would light the way. And eventually, when we began to see … the broken road of grief would stretch out to infinity.

Like all who grieve, I wish I could go back in time to this very moment so that I could also grab Mitchell’s face, look him in the eyes and tell him that I loved him and how special he was to my heart. I would beg for him to play with me … to build Legos, draw pictures, cuddle and watch movies. I would have set aside everything I was doing to drink in one more moment. I did all that I knew to do … but I wish I did more. That is a burden of grief, too. Those moments of opportunity have long come and gone … and I’m reminded all we ever really keep are the things that we have done. 

I was in a leadership meeting a few months ago where we were trying to deal with some challenges. A peer observed, speaking of someone who wasn’t stepping up to their responsibilities, “Well, he is really busy you know …” he paused a moment then gestured with his hand, “… busy with et cetera.”

I began to think deeply on that simple phrase … “busy with et cetera.” I thought back on my own life and began to take stock of my own life decisions: was I caught up in the froth of frilly things, or was I doing that mattered most? I’d like to think I always made the right choice – but when I’m honest, I know where I could have done things differently … done things better. 

I’m not suggesting that everything in life be deep and heavy … I’m talking about the conversations I could have had with Mitch or my other kids, yet I was lost in my smartphone. Or that thing for work I chose to do on a Friday night, instead of spending time with my family. I’m talking about being anywhere, but nowhere.

It is so easy to get caught up in et cetera; the kinds of things that keep us from living in the moment and thriving … suddenly we find our souls shrinking … on the inside we’re dying. Et cetera: always pretending to be of substance, yet in truth is the thinnest of things … a deception of the heart that is, in the end, really quite mean. Et cetera has us drowning in information, yet ever thirsty for direction, meaning and truth. We get married to material things and lesser pursuits … unaware our once treasured relationships have become the caboose. 

Now, I know I wasn’t that bad, you see … but seeing et cetera for what it is, I know what I don’t want to be.

When I sit at the foot of my son’s place of rest, I want so badly hug and love little Mitch as his daddy knows best. I would trade every et cetera that swept me away … I would give it all back for just one more day.