Just before a painful procedure, Mitch grabbed my arm and squeezed my hand as if to hug me. Although I was trying to love and comfort my dying son, he seemed to find greater comfort loving me. I loved how he loved.
It was a strange thing to watch the hospice nurse keep our son healthy, just long enough to die. She did a marvelous job managing our son’s pain, guiding my broken wife and me through the process of death and dying, and offering insights on how to cope with grief. She warned us that everything we were experiencing at the time was the easy stuff – and that much harder, darker days were ahead. She was right.
As Mitch and I were hugging hands, it took every ounce of strength to hold back my tears – for I wanted to bury my head in the couch and weep like a child. I thought to myself, “This is not the life I wanted. How can I possibly save him?” My bright dreams of becoming a father had turned into a nightmare of the blackest velvet pitch.
My son would soon die and I would experience a grief so great, there are simply no words to describe it. Then, my professional world turned upside down. Good people, who might have been mentors, turned dark and twisted. Life went from bad to worse. When I thought things couldn’t get worse, life became darker still. Grief would soon take a toll on my surviving children – which as a parent was heartbreaking. I don’t write about their grief journey because I respect their privacy. But I will say that sibling grief is real and my wife and I do all that we can to help our children the best we can.
Looking back, I have not had the life I wanted … but it has been everything I’ve needed. I didn’t want to lose little Mitch – but his life and death have changed me for the better. I am not mad at God. But I am sad … and that’s okay. I don’t allow other life challenges, disappointments, and failures to make me bitter – I’m trying to figure out how they can help make me a little better. I have a long, long way to go. I am still learning to live with disappointment and grief -- but I am also learning to live in harmony and peace.
I know when I die, I will go to that place beyond the hills and see my boy again. And if there are no tears in heaven, I will be the first to make them – and the stars will bathe in them. Perhaps we will hold hands like this again – where I try to comfort Mitch and he comforts me. I have a feeling that we’ll look back on our lives and say “Well, it wasn’t the life we wanted but it taught us everything we needed.”
When I see life through that lens, I understand things differently, indeed. For we are souls eternal; gathering light and knowledge, even to infinity.