About a month ago a good friend and neighbor of mine thought they lost their elementary-age son. He didn't come home on the bus and was nowhere to be found at school. With each passing hour concern turned to crisis as they put in motion a community search for a sweet child who left no trace. Family, friends and neighbors gathered at their home to help look for their son. My wife and I joined the ranks of those willing to search. Natalie and I were weepy before we drove to their home because we desperately didn't want them to experience the loss of a child. As we knocked on their door, prepared to spend whatever time and effort in search of their precious son, we were relieved to discover they had just found him. Upon hearing the news, while standing in the entrance of their home, I quietly swallowed the swelling lump in my throat. 

As I drove home, I lost it. I wept … and I wept. 

At first I wept because I was happy my friend found his son. But soon my tears turned toward the loss of my own son, recognizing no mortal search crew could ever find him. Yet there are times in my mind and heart that I frantically want to search for him as though he were lost in a crowd of strangers. Times that panic and sadness course through my blood like battery acid because my son is out of my sight and no longer under my protection. Those moments are almost paralyzing. There was a time in my life that I used to awake from nightmares; always finding relief that the horror show I saw in my mind was only a dream. But after my son passed away, I found just the opposite was true … every morning I awoke into a nightmare. I have since learned that nightmares can be managed. 

The other day I found Wyatt in Mitchell’s room talking to him as if he were there. Wyatt had so many things to say; and I just stood in the hallway in silent awe of my youngest son who was doing his best to sort things out. He loved his older brother and just wanted Mitch to know he loved and admired him. Wyatt knows Mitch isn't there in body, but wonders sometimes if his big brother is somewhere near him in spirit. I believe, on rare occasions, such communions can take place. But it is my experience those opportunities are rare and happen for a specific purpose. Most of the time, of necessity, we must walk through life with the dim flashlight of faith. For reasons of our own spiritual growth, that is how it must be.

As I entered Mitchell’s room I could tell that Wyatt wanted to talk. So I kissed his forehead softly and sat next to him as we started to talk about his brother. We both laughed. We both cried. Together we shared our favorite memories and how much we loved and missed Mitchie. And while our hearts were hurting, they were also healing.

I have lost my son … and in that loss I have found unexpected things: I have found a deeper love for my wife, Mitch and my other children. I have also found a renewed appreciation for life and my faith. And while I am strongly buffeted by moments of panic, horror and sadness because my son is gone, I know he is not. 

My task, between now and the day I am laid to rest, is to not get lost in the thick of thin things … but to do what matters most. Always.