Mitch was home on hospice when we heard a soft tap on our front door. It was Carter, one of Mitchell’s best friends accompanied by his loving mother, also a dear friend to our family. In his arms was a valentines box he carefully made at school filled with all manner of treats kids love to eat. The kids at school had just done their candy exchange and not even Carter knew what yummy treats were in his box. I remember how much I treasured those things as a kid – and I saw that same look of treasurement in Carter’s eyes.

We escorted this young boy downstairs where Mitch was playing a game. Carter knelt down and opened his box of sweet treasures for the first time. Before even looking at what was inside Carter said, “Mitch, take whatever you want.” 

Mitch was shy and looked through his box of candies. Carter’s quiet smile was magnanimous. My eyes filled with tears as I witnessed two giant souls clothed in the small bodies of young children. I saw my son who was fighting for life and his dear friend giving Mitchell’s life a little joy and happiness. Whatever Carter lost in sweet candies that day, he made up for in sweeter memories – which last longer and taste sweeter than anything I know.

A few years ago I wanted to travel the earth to explore the world’s wonders. I realized in this moment the world’s greatest wonders were already before me. They weren’t marked by vast canyons, lush terrains or majestic waters. Instead, the world’s greatest wonders wore small, worn-out shoes. They had grass-stained knees, played with plastic toys and built cities with their young imaginations. They laughed and played and sometimes tried their parent's patience ... but in the end, they wanted nothing more than to make their parents happy. The world’s greatest wonders were children. I always knew this – but at this moment I knew it a little more than the times before.

A few weeks later Carter would visit Mitch again … but this time at his funeral, sobbing in ways only a young child can know. His sweet smile was exchanged with deep, childhood grief. My heart went out to Carter and I was pained he had to experience such grief. I knelt down, swallowing my own sorrows, and gave Carter a father-like hug and thanked him for being such a dear friend to my son. I told him, “Because of you, his life was blessed.” 

I have had many people ask me how I’ve learned to cope with grief. My answer is that I’m really no different than anyone who grieves – and that I still have moments, sometimes agonizing hours where the gravity of grief is so great death would be a sweet release. It is a terrible burden. At the same time it is also a paradoxical blessing – for those same burdens that brought me to my knees, bruised in sorrow, have also lifted my heart and mind heavenward.

In my loss I have gained new perspective and a deeper relationship with my own Father. He is eternally kind and patient with me as I stumble in my own ways. If I could just learn to be like these young boys …

One thing I have discovered about grief and learning to live again is that if I can set aside my own sorrows to lift and love another, just like Carter did in this photo, then my broken heart heals a little. At least to me, a key to grieving well is learning to give.