Last October, almost at this very time, we took our kids to the mountains to shoot some family photos. The air was crisp like an apple and carried an aroma of pine and cedar, a hint of dirt, crunchy leaves and soggy wood. Fall was in the air and Mitch loved it. And because he also loved smells … the mountain air seemed to be something of a gift to him that day … as if to offer a loving farewell to a little boy who would soon go on a journey far from this place. 

Mitch loved the seasons and the transformations that came with them. With each season Mitch became excited for what lie ahead; the promise of the summer sun, the chill of winter snow or the renewal of spring blossoms … he loved it all. 

In almost every way, Mitchell was just like me. He loved everything I loved. What’s more, in ways that are difficult to describe, he often felt like my echo. 

So, we got busy taking a few family photos. It isn't my practice to take many portraits because I prefer raw captures of life unrehearsed. But from time-to-time portraits have their place. We took one of my favorite family portraits on this occasion and I will treasure it the remainder of my days. I will post it soon.

While we were busy experimenting, Mitch asked if he could take some photos with one of my cameras. By this time in his life DMD had weakened his arms to the point that it became difficult to lift the camera to his face. So I mounted my camera to a tripod, stepped aside and let Mitch take the lead. I took photos of Mitch shooting his mom and sister and I thought he was so cute directing the girls. Mitch took some great photos that day. Oh, how I love him.

Whether on his own or in some class Mitch always startled me by his insightfulness. Ordinarily shy and reserved, he had a mind that was deeper and more thoughtful than he would lead someone to believe. Once a week he attended an art workshop in the evenings. Mitch often resisted because he just wanted to be in the comfort of our home. But Natalie, being a wise parent, knew what was good for her child wasn't always comfortable or easy. So, she lovingly insisted that he go – encouraging Mitch to learn and grow. 

He always seemed to leave with a frown but come home with a big smile. As his art portfolio grew in size – so did his confidence. Mitch, like my other children, was experiencing a transformation from something good into something greater. As with all things worthwhile, that kind of growth required work, leaving his comfort zone and persistence. 

My wife teaches me about parenting every day. As a parent, her choices are instinctively wise and forward-thinking – ever mindful of the transformations our children are experiencing. I have much to learn from her. 

Transformations. That is the singular reason we are here on earth, I believe. We’re not here to build homes, accumulate things and eventually die. We’re here that our souls might learn and grow – to transform from something good into something much, much greater. And growth can be uncomfortable, scary and painful. Oh, it can be painful. 

Toward the end of his life I began to sense that Mitchell was more than he seemed. As I mentioned in my funeral address, I began to look upon my son with spiritual eyes and sensed that beneath the veneer of a 10 year-old’s broken body was a spirit much wiser and older than I realized. Mitchell has transformed into something I can no longer see or feel. But I know he lives. 

My wife, who is spiritually wise always teaches me without trying, seemed to instinctively understand that “what is good for us isn't always comfortable or easy.” Despite his protests, she took Mitch to those workshops … and he grew. I admired my wife’s loving insistence and watching Mitchell’s transformation.

The Father of my soul has taken me to a workshop – the hardest of all workshops. With tears in my eyes and a trembling heart, I hope to follow my son’s example and return with a smile on my face and a transformation in my soul. Nothing of value comes easily, and I pray that I’ll never lose sight of what my wife so humbly taught me: “what is good for us isn't always comfortable or easy.”