John R. Wood
There is nothing more we can do...
I heard these words from a doctor regarding my father’s cancer prognosis in 2008. In the movie, “Breakthrough,” a doctor gives these crushing words to a mother whose son fell through the ice, spent 15 minutes underwater, and another 45 minutes with no signs of life before his pulse miraculously returned. I was moved when the mother in the movie responded to these words with the same words my own mother always used to encourage me when I encountered a situation that seemed too hard: Try your best and let God do the rest.
My father died three months before my son was born. My father’s death and the birth of my son shook me, made me cry out to God for help, and ultimately led me to realize why I need God. He is relevant to everything in our life, but He is even more relevant to our death. Without God, there is no meaning to life and no hope in death. In the months leading up to both these events, I found myself pulled between the horizons of birth and death—between the legacy of my father and the gift of new life in my son.
About a month before my father died, I attended a weekend spiritual retreat, looking for answers to my fears and strength to face a situation that felt impossible. Sitting in silence that weekend, I began to reflect on what kind of connection my dying father would have with his unborn grandson. My father’s greatest disappointment in learning his fate was that he would not see his grandchildren grow. Knowing my father’s sadness, I contemplated what my unborn son might say to my father if he could speak. So, I wrote a letter from my son to my father. It was a breakthrough for me. It connected me not only to my father and my son but to my God and to the meaning and purpose of this journey we call life.
A Voice from the Womb
I’m sorry we never met in person. I am honored to have the opportunity to carry your name in this life. I know that as I make my journey of life, there will always be a void without you here with me. But I know there will be one more person in Heaven who’s always watching over me—my very own saint to pray to for strength. I will always strive to make you proud, to carry on your legacy. I will strive to become the saint I was created to be so one day I will see you face to face. Until that day, I am comforted in knowing you’re a part of me, and I’m a part of you. Your legacy lives through me.
As you make your journey out of this world, I prepare to make my journey into it. Our journeys are not so different. In both birth and death, there’s waiting, wondering, fear, anxiety, pain, suffering, relief, grief, and joy.
Birth and death are not the beginning and the end—but merely horizons. And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. You are leaving the womb of Mother Earth, and I will soon be leaving the comfort of my mother’s womb. A womb is a place of preparation, and though we sometimes want to cling to its comfort, we cannot stay because we’re created for so much more. We must remember we’re children of God, sons of the most High, and are destined for the Kingdom of Heaven.
I will strive to carry my crosses and accept the suffering of this life with great courage, just like you did—for the sake of the Kingdom that lies ahead.
Thank you for the gift of my life.
I’ll love you forever.
Your unborn grandson,
Isaiah Jackson Wood
Let us pray:
God, help us to remember that You are a good Father, and You desire to be with us for all eternity. This life is a journey, not a destination. It is a pilgrimage, not a vacation. As we reflect on our purpose in life, help us not to seek a fairytale ending, for life rarely has a happy ending. Instead, help us live our lives in such a way that our death will be a happy beginning that never ends. Our happily ever after can only exist in Heaven. Until that day we see You face to face, help us strive to do our best to become the saints You created us to be and trust in
Your grace to do all the rest. Amen.