It had only been a few short hours from the time little Mitch passed away. I felt like I had been thrown overboard into a vast sea of grief – how deep and violent that sea would become I never imagined. I had clung to a little raft of hope for so long – and in a moment, that hope for one more day … one more moment with my son was suddenly submerged in terrible waves of sorrow.
It was that realization he was gone (I mean really, really gone) that was terrifying. My soul experienced a new, darker form of grief as what little hope I had was dashed and absolute. Like wading in the ocean; one moment surrounded in warm water then suddenly the water went cold, then warm again … our emotions were no different. One moment we felt peace, the next moment unimaginable horror. The nightmare I was terrified to imagine became a suffocating reality.
My dear wife sat on the edge of our bed quietly weeping when my oldest sister came into our room and began to console her, mother-to-mother. This is the same sister who knew Natalie and I sat in the hall outside Mitchell’s bedroom and wept while he slept and brought us cushions to sit on just days earlier. I made mention in a post how hard the ground felt and this good woman offered the only relief she could.
As a father, the death of my son stripped me of everything. I was no longer the protector of my children but instead a helpless, terrified bystander to the implacable force of death. I loved my son and wanted to save him – but I failed. My wife and I were terrorized by feelings of doubt, frustrated that medical interventions presented themselves too late, and panicked by an endless list of “what if’s.” Although the morning sun had risen, night had scarcely begun.
Then entered my sister, an angel made mortal. Like heavenly wings of comfort, she wrapped her arms around my broken wife and wept with her. I wept at this very sight – grateful for compassionate souls. Today, when I look at this image of my sister mourning with my wife, my heart is softened and my soul soothed. I don’t know much, but I have come to know we are comforted, as if by a whisper, by those who have gone before us. Though they want for our happiness, they mourn with us … not out of pity or disappointment that we are sad, but empathy. They understand that we hurt and they hurt with us. Sorrow over loss is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an evidence of love. I can see Mitch holding my wife, sight unseen, whispering to her soul, “I know mommy, I miss you too. I am sorry that you hurt so much. I understand.”
I recently had lunch with a good man and colleague. He is an ecclesiastical leader and a man of great faith. He asked the question, “Why do some people really suffer by the loss of a loved one while others seem to accept it as a fact of life and mortality and move on?” I was a little surprised by his question and didn’t quite know how to answer it at the moment – I only said when my father passed away, that was hard. But when my young son died, it was life altering and soul shattering.
Grief is hard. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. Ever.
Sometimes grief comes barging into my heart at the most unexpected moments. I was on a business trip last Friday and everything went better than expected. I was excited about the future and my heart was filled with hope and anticipation. Then at about 10:30 PM, on the flight home, I dozed off. I began to dream of my dear son and somewhere between sleep and consciousness I realized Mitch was gone and my soul panicked. I awoke in a terror and my heart was pounding. I felt the pains of loss anew – with the same intensity as this very morning when I lost my son.
So, what is the point to all this suffering? The answer lives deep within - where secrets of the soul are ours to win. They do not come easy - in fact they often come at a cost ... sometimes at the hand of a terrible loss. But when we learn to look and see, our hearts will be healed by a most heavenly scene. Perhaps, after all, when we felt most alone, we were comforted by arms unseen and wings unknown.