About 4 years ago Mitchell’s great grandmother passed away. We attended her funeral deep in the heart of Wyoming, far from civilization as we knew it. It was early spring and the air was cold and vaguely punishing. Driving through the barren, lonely landscape of Wyoming I couldn't help but think about the many hardships and struggles experienced by the generations that came before us. Old brick and wood ruins lay sun-baked and weathered in grassy fields like fossils from an era long gone. 

The eulogies were beautiful and gave tribute to a wonderful woman who lived a full life and did the best she could with her circumstances. She was my wife’s grandmother, and without her contribution to the gene pool my wife wouldn't exist, and neither would Mitch. 

My children were too young to appreciate all that was happening; they, like me as a child, were more focused on cousins and casseroles. After the funeral service our family followed the remains of this lovely woman to the hearse. While all the young boys were busy fidgeting about in their suit jackets, Mitch sat there arrested … peering into shadows of a vehicle that contained no ordinary wood box. My son's eyes were fixed, deeply contemplative and ignored everything around him. It was as though Mitch sensed something was coming in the not-too-distant future. 

Later that night Mitchell would ask me about death and the life after. He was genuinely curious and his questions went beyond the superficial concepts one would expect from a young child. I sensed in him a sincere desire to understand the realities of life and death. He wanted to know that which can only be seen and understood with spiritual eyes. As I sat at the edge of his bed, I shared with him some sacred experiences I had surrounding my father’s death about 18 years prior. While I will not share what we discussed, I did tell my son that I know that such a place exists. I know it as surely as I know my wife and children are in the next room. There was a peaceful, reassuring spirit that touched both of our hearts. Mitchell’s young mind was beginning to put the pieces together. 

While I want so badly to pierce the veil of darkness between this life and the world beyond, I cannot. It is not meant for us to go there for reasons designed to strengthen and refine our souls; to build spiritual discipline and faith. And faith is a power so often talked about but little understood.

I have been taught that you cannot force a spiritual experience any more than you can force an egg to hatch before its time. But you can create a climate that fosters spiritual growth, nourishes and protects our souls and opens our spiritual eyes to that which cannot be seen or understood with mortal senses. But all too often we turn our pain into anger or pseudo intellectualism that would splinter the delicate spiritual fabric of our souls. It is ironic that, being mortal and flawed, we run from the very things that can save us.

We have all seen it time and again; when tragedy comes it is human nature to stand a little taller, to serve a little more and to look upward for heavenly help. It is easy to do the right things when the storms of life threaten to destroy the comforts and coliseums we build around us. 

What is more telling of us is what we do when the sun is shining.

Losing my son has been a colossal emotional storm. One day when the strong emotional waves and hurricane-force winds subside, I vow to keep my eyes on true north and do what matters most. Because the time will come when, like my precious son, I will be placed in a box beside him and buried from human sight. And none of the comforts and coliseums we may be tempted to chase after will matter. Not one bit.