This week a young mother named Jessica shared a letter with me that she had written to her precious four-year-old son after he died of a brain tumor several weeks ago. Last October, a news station in their area did a story on Henry that will introduce you to this remarkable young boy. Jessica’s letter is so moving and full of insight that I asked her if we could post it, and she happily agreed. I also asked Jessica to write some of her story as an introduction to her letter. Below, you’ll find both.
Henry’s Story, by Jessica
“A tree falls the way it leans,” at least according to our son’s favorite movie, The Lorax.
The ax fell on September 21st. My husband and I took our vibrant, amazing, 4-year-old son to the ER due to symptoms of trembling and fatigue. Hours later we learned he had a brain tumor. Two weeks later he’d had major brain surgery, several additional procedures, and the diagnosis was in – the tumor was massive, malignant, and highly aggressive.
Reflecting back on that haze of terror, I’m glad we weren’t leaning into our old picture of God. There was a time we’d both pictured God as all-controlling, willing life to unfold according to a mysterious blueprint. We’d been told to thank God for EVERYTHING, even events that seemed evil. After all, the trials in life are sent to teach us, right?
And this was the trial of a lifetime. After 28 days in the hospital, we brought Henry home with hospice care. There were a few weeks of strength, celebrating life, and hope of a miraculous healing. Then the symptoms worsened, our hearts sank, and on December 16th, we called out to Jesus while Henry took his last breath.
After all, it was Jesus we’d been leaning on. In the two years preceding Henry’s diagnosis we’d devoured books like “Is God to Blame?” and absorbed hundreds of Dr. Boyd’s podcasts. We’d found a beautiful, plausible alternative – a renewed picture of God!
On the night Henry died, we fell safely into the loving arms of a God whose character was epitomized on Calvary.
The following is a letter I wrote to our son upon his passing. I pray it blesses you, and inspires you to evaluate which way you lean. God Bless.
Our Precious Henry,
Several years ago we were living in a tiny apartment. Daddy was at work and I took a test. I’d taken pregnancy tests before but this was different – this one showed TWO lines! At that moment I was struck by the symbolism – a line for me, and a line representing the life I was now responsible for, the life I’d cherish and enjoy the rest of my days. That was my plan. I believe it was God’s plan too.
Enjoying your first two years was more…. more everything than your dad and I thought it would be. More difficult, more rewarding, more painful, more joyful, more tiring and more exhilarating than we ever suspected parenthood would be.
Your sweet cackling laugh always compelled us to laugh along, your big blue eyes could change our made-up minds. We were continuously blown away by your creativity, industriousness, intelligence, and coordination. We speculated that you’d be an engineer or a surgeon or do something to maximize your incredible potential. That was our plan. We believe it was God’s plan too.
When Miri came along we so enjoyed seeing the two of you interact. Your gentle hugs and kisses, the way you’d giggle and chase each other, even your single-word arguments over whether a particular food was “tasty!” or “wummy!” Her look of adoration stuck from the moment she met you, and when you nicknamed her your “Best-Friend Miwi,” we knew you two would enjoy a life-long friendship. That was our plan. We believe it was God’s plan too.
The year preceding your earthly death was difficult. We tried and tried but couldn’t understand the challenges you faced and presented. We had no knowledge of this vicious disease, but learned about grace, forgiveness, patience, and perseverance during this time. We still giggled, still played, still worked, but it wasn’t until your body began to show outward signs that we began to grasp the source of affliction.
When we learned of your brain tumor we prayed. Thousands prayed. We demanded in prayer, we begged in prayer, we took authority in prayer, we took personal inventories and confessed our shortcomings in prayer, we gathered with groups in prayer, and wept silently, alone in prayer.
We did everything we could think of to strengthen our prayers – prayers for a miraculous healing. A miraculous healing was our plan, and we believe that once you became sick, it became God’s plan too.
So many are quick to sign God’s name to your vicious disease, to your suffering, to your death. In the Old Testament, Job attributed his suffering to God too, but after God confronted Job on his lack of understanding about the complexity of the universe, Job repented, admitting he’d spoken of things he did not know (Job 42:3).
Your dad and I also do not know. We do not know why it was you that suffered and died so young. We do not know why the prayers of thousands did not prevail. We just do. not. know.
But some things we do know. We know there is much going on behind the scenes of this fallen world, a world tremendously influenced by God’s powerful adversary. We know that spiritual warfare invades our lives, and often leaves devastation in its wake.
We also know, according to Hebrews 1:3, that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the EXACT representation of God’s being. We know that this exact representation of God, Jesus Christ, came to give life, and life more abundantly. So we know your pain, your death, did not come from God, but from an evil place. And we know one most crucial thing – we know how to fight back.
We will fight with… surrender. We choose to surrender the anger, the despair, and defeat we feel. We lay these feelings at the feet of Jesus, to whom the battle belongs.
We know how he fought for us – with complete self-sacrifice. In fact, that sacrifice is our assurance that we’ll see you again.
So we will instead strive to use our energies to be generous to those who could never repay, to be gentle to those who don’t make it easy, to pour into the lives of those who hurt, and to, one act at a time, spread the liberating love of Christ.
We’ll fail at times, but we pledge to live this way, to honor you, Henry, and to honor the One who now gently holds your small hand. That’s our plan. And living a life that loves sacrificially, well, that’s always God’s plan too.
Sweet boy, we miss you with every breath, but we’ll all be together before you know it, celebrating the ultimate victory of love. Until then Precious One, all our love.
Mom & Dad