Why do we wait for people to die to say nice things about them? What if that kind word spoken at a eulogy might have made a difference to them when they were living? Whenever possible & appropriate, I try to speak the words I might say at someone’s eulogy, were I asked to speak, so that person might absolutely know how I feel about them and why I look up to him/her. My greatest hope is that those shared thoughts and feelings might help them while they’re living, for a compliment at a funeral does far less good than a compliment in life. 

So, because I don’t wait for birthdays, anniversaries or funerals to say kind things … I am not as keen on anniversaries as every day is a celebration of who and what I love. Strangely, my heart weighs heavy this day, the 3rd anniversary of my son’s funeral. I remember how difficult it was to speak … I almost threw up that morning and I, a grown man, wept like a small child just before the funeral director closed my son’s casket for the last time. 

Months later I remember watching my dear wife, who knelt reverently by our son’s place of rest, lean over to touch his headstone – almost in disbelief. Natalie tried so hard to love and nurture Mitch while he was alive. Like me, she thought we had more time. As hard as everything was up to that point, we didn’t realize the hardest parts of grief were yet to come. How exquisitely hard we couldn’t imagine.

At least to me, Mitchell’s Journey is as much about the examined life as it is musings on love and grief. I have endured deep suffering over the loss of my child and have come to understand not one of us will be spared hardship and sorrow. At some point in our lives, we will all suffer and drink from bitter cups; we will all weep and gather up our broken pieces … and sometimes we might wonder why the heavens suddenly seem so dark. Only then will we begin to see the stars: tender mercies that can only be discerned in and through the darkness – whose subtle light will eventually illuminate the path and lead our souls out of the dark. Perhaps we would all be fortunate as to have great suffering happen earlier in our lives rather than later … for then we might love strangers more readily, empathize with those who hurt more freely, and help our neighbors with glad hearts. The world needs a lot more of that stuff.

I am still learning how to grieve, yet I marvel at those who are fortunate enough to have not lost a child; they who sit comfortably, incredulously, from the comfort of their observation deck and suggest it is time to stop hurting, because they themselves don’t hurt. Such an assertion is as silly and insensitive as if I were to tell a parent to abandon their love for their living child, simply because I don’t share their personal attachment. Sometimes it is the lack of empathy from others that can make the grief journey seem so long and lonely.

It is not my place, nor any of my business, to know where people are in their grief journey. I have learned to respect the empty space between a parent and lost child as hallowed ground. To observe a sufferer in grief is to watch someone in their own Gethsemane and we would do well to reverence our criticisms and thank God we are not suffering in the same way. And if we are fortunate to have suffered such a loss, we might reach out and lift those heavy hands with love and understanding – for empathy has the power to heal.

At least for me, I measure my own healing by a few examinations:
1) What have I learned from my sorrows?
2) How have I changed?
3) What meaning has this experience had in my life?
4) Have I drawn closer to my Father?

If my answers shed light in the darkness, then I know I’m growing. If I don’t know the answer, then I need to search more.

I promise to not always write about sad things, but for now I still feel sad things … and this is my therapy.

Yet, despite my sorrows today, my heart is glad in knowing my sweet wife always built our son up with kind words, loving encouragement and sound council. She offered our son a living eulogy; Mitch didn’t need to die before nice things were said to and about him. Our little boy never went a day where Natalie didn’t help him feel good about himself. ... where he didn’t know he was loved by a mother who was an angel made mortal.