It was late spring, Mitchell’s headstone hadn’t yet arrived and each day was getting a little warmer than the day before. It had only been a few months since I lost my son and my soul was still dizzy with grief. Quietly, I was grateful for warmer days because the cold winter air carried with it vivid memories of the cold morning my dear son was rolled away from our home, never to return.
On this spring afternoon, Wyatt asked if I would drive him to the cemetery so he could visit Mitch. I told him I'd be glad to. “Okay, just a second,” Wyatt said as he dashed into Mitchell's room. A few second passed, and he returned with one of Mitchell’s favorite Halo characters and said, "Okay, let's go." As we arrived at the cemetery, I was curious what Wyatt had in mind, so I gave him some space and said, "Take your time son, I'll be nearby."
With that, he handed me Mitchell's Halo figure and gave me a soft grin, a confident nod, then sat on the grass and started talking to his older brother. I sat several yards from him but had one of my larger lenses so I could take photos without interrupting my son. I could faintly hear Wyatt’s young voice as he told his missing brother summer was around the corner, school was quickly coming to an end and a little about the movies he knew Mitch wanted to see. Wyatt told Mitch about some of the new friends he made throughout the year and how his teacher was so kind to him when he cried in class because he missed him. Wyatt continued to tell his brother about the tree Mitchell's school, and City Council planted in his honor.
It was a tender thing to see my youngest son struggling to sort things out. I sat in the distance and cried as I overheard Wyatt tell Mitch how much he loved and missed him.
The protective father in me was tempted to sweep Wyatt away – to try and rescue or insulate him from hardship. Part of me wanted to distract Wyatt from the harsh realities of life or to soothe him with artificial comforts. But I knew better. I knew that in trying to insulate my son from pain, I would cause more harm than the original pain itself. Instead, I wanted to help Wyatt learn how to deal with hard things – for life is full of hard things. If I was to pass something on, I wanted it to be a knowledge of how to survive the storms of life. If there is one thing we can be sure of, it's we’ll all come to know hardship, and we’re all going to get broken in one way or another.
At this moment I realized my responsibility as a father wasn’t to keep my son from hurting, for that is impossible. Instead, it was to teach my son how to mend broken things. I wanted Wyatt to understand real strength isn’t found in pretending to be unbreakable but in having the courage to admit our brokenness, then make broken things strong.
If there’s one thing I pray most to teach my son – it is there's always broken things to mend, and if he’s wise, he’ll seek Heaven’s help and therein find the strength of a million men.