I remember how playful my children were at this moment and how much they loved their mother. We were at a reunion and every family was back in their hotel rooms to rest a little. As a Dad, my heart swelled when I saw our kids laugh and kiss Natalie’s cheeks to let her know how much they loved her. This was an emotional payday for my sweet wife and best friend – and my soul smiled, glad to see her cash in a little on all the long nights and thankless days. I was glad to capture this sweet exchange because this was one of those perfect moments that can slip through your fingers like the finest sand. On the darker days, these good times remind me that not all of life is bad.
As far as I can tell, I believe one of the hard truths about life is this: things don’t always turn out well. And sometimes, things can go terribly, horribly wrong. Bad things can, and probably will happen to us. If we live long enough, our hearts may be broken many times and we might suffer a great deal over the years. But between all those hurts we’re going to experience many, many happy times.
I still miss my little boy and I’m still grieving – but I think I’m entering a new stage of grief – that is the stage of deep acceptance. When I think of the stages of grief, I don’t think I ever experienced anger – only great sadness. Maybe I did experience anger … but I don’t ever remember being mad at God – only very, very sad. I could have filled an ocean with my tears.
On my grief journey, I often wondered what acceptance would mean to me. I think I’m beginning to understand. At least for me, I’ve learned to accept I will forever miss little Mitch. I accept there will always be an empty chair at the table of my heart – and I’ll long to see it occupied. I accept that I now live with chronic [emotional] pain. Yet, pain, like every emotion, has its time and place. The emptiness is always, but the pain comes and goes – as does joy and peace. As time progresses, the peaks and valleys are less intense.
I think about Mitch daily – sometimes I cry, other times I smile, and increasingly, I giggle over the cute things he used to do.
I’m beginning to discover something about what can happen to the wounds that cut us so deeply. Somehow, some way, if we’re patient, and if we seek to find meaning before we seek peace … we’ll heal faster and hurt a little less. To my great surprise, these terrible wounds are turning into soft, peaceful memories – and fewer tears fill my eyes.