A summer storm had just passed when we decided to take our kids park hopping. The air was crisp and clean, the grass still soft with rain. The magic of weather made the earth feel new again. 

Mitch and my other boys were excited to play with some Styrofoam airplanes that I picked up from a local hobby shop. When thrown, these planes would circle back to you like a boomerang. They were fun to fly.

Fascinated, Mitch asked in his soft, tender tone, “Dad, how does that work?” I shared what little I knew about aerodynamics and Bernoulli's principle and tried to distill it into something a 9 year old might understand. “Mitch,” I said, “When you throw that plane you create pressure and force – which creates lift. This little airplane is designed to lift when it meets force and pressure.” Mitch tilted his head as though to ponder my words, then finally a look of understanding and insight came across his face. 

At the same time in his life, I knew he was grappling with why he was getting weaker while many of his peers were getting stronger. So I took a moment to apply that same principle of lift to my boy. I said, “Son, I think our souls are much like this airplane. Our souls are designed to lift when it meets pressure – you know, when it meets hard things. You, little Mitch, are meant to fly.” 

With that, I kissed his forehead like I so often did, and he went about his childhood adventure. With each determined throw I could see Mitch studying the flight path of this little airplane. Every time it took flight, it seemed as though he was internalizing my words and how they applied to him. I had spoken enough to Mitch about the nature of the human soul and the purpose of life that he knew what I was talking about. There was an intensity to Mitch that was unique that day. An intensity of study I won’t likely forget.

Among the many tragedies of my son’s passing was the fact he loved life so much. He loved every minute of it and there wasn't a moment he wasted. For little Mitch, each day was an act of deliberate living. Even when his body was shutting down, he would awake only to realize with great disappointment he lost hours of his life to sleep. This little boy clung to life like a drowning man to a life preserver deep at sea.

I have known no greater pain than the loss of my son. The force and pressure of grief is that of a hurricane seen only on Jupiter. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the tempest of my own grief and sorrow are a form of spiritual force and pressure, creating lift to my weary soul. Though I would rather not be about this journey, I have no choice in the matter. I can choose to steer upward or spiral to the ground … the choice is entirely mine, I have found. 

I have come to realize a relationship between pain and progress. Our souls are meant to struggle – for in that heavenly pressure creates lift. Though agonizing now, one day we’ll look back and be grateful for it. 

I can almost hear a whisper from our Father, “Don’t be discouraged, my child – for your soul was meant to fly. And that cannot happen without pressure or standing idly by.”