I just returned from a father-son trip with Ethan and Wyatt. We went to Bryce Canyon and the Escalante National Park to explore the outdoors and make memories. One thing I’ve discovered along my grief journey is I must make new memories if I’m to heal and grow. 

On our first night, I took my boys to the edge of a tall ridge where we could see deep into the stone carved wonders of Bryce Canyon. As the sun cast its evening light across the sky, nature’s handiwork seemed to stretch out into infinity. Millions of years of erosion had left behind a most beautiful display of stone and color. At one point I asked my boys, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could stand here in a bubble and watch 200 million years pass in a matter of minutes? What do you think we would see? How would the world change?” My boys seemed to think deeply over that question. So did I.

All the wondrous landscape at our feet was a testament that change and beauty take time. Sometimes I think grief is like the seasons. There are cold seasons and warm seasons and there are the times of change in between. With each season of grief, I am beginning to see a subtle erosion of the old and a beautifully unexpected shaping of the new.

The second night we drove deep into the woods to take photos of the stars. Before long the sky grew pitch black and the evening breeze calmed and became strangely still. Ethan and I peered heavenward and saw more stars then in a single gaze than I've ever seen at any one time in my life. The air was so cold it felt like we were marooned on a small rock floating in outer space – even the air seemed thin. Cute little Wyatt sat cozily in my truck with the heater roaring as if he were stationed in a life capsule waiting for us to return from our space exploration. 

As we peered into the vast night sky, we felt infinitesimally small. In an instant the world, with all its sound and fury, seemed insignificant as compared to the mind-boggling vastness of space. I told Ethan that scientists believe there are roughly 70 billion trillion stars in space. We know so little of the universe – and the deeper we probe the more bizarre the universe seems. All of humanity are but infants, cradled in heaven’s lap. We know about as much about the universe as those old geographers who once thought the world was flat. 

Ethan was sensitive to light pollution and wanted to make sure we were as far away from civilization as possible so that he might see deeper into space. Ethan knew that the darker the skies, the brighter the stars. 

So, as we sat in the cold of night looking deeper into heaven than we ever imagined, Ethan and I contemplated the relative nothingness of mankind. It was a humbling moment. Often, when Ethan and I shoot the night sky, he wonders out loud about Mitch; he asks questions about where he is, what he might be doing, and he wonders if Mitch might be near us at times. I know Ethan misses his brother and that grief weighs heavy on his heart. So, I try to be a strong shoulder for him to lean on and a listening ear and understanding heart. If I cannot take his hurt away, I can at least hold him while he hurts. And, when the skies draw black, I hope he learns to get away from life pollution – so that his spiritual eyes might see heaven’s stars more clearly. Stars one cannot see in the light of day ... stars that will surely point the way.