In Memory of Mike Woodward
I believe in second chances.
I grew up knowing my father as a happy man who had everything in the world figured out. It had never occurred to me that this pillar in my young life, this key role model, may have a vice. I had never realized that the beer my father always seemed to be drinking was not a harmless drink, or that it had replaced my mother as his best friend. That all became clear when my mother took my sister and me to our grandmother’s house for a day of shopping and going to the zoo; when I was out spending time with my family she told my father that they needed a temporary separation in order to work things out.
The first year was filled with confusion, anger, misunderstanding, and sadness. Things became clearer on the day after their 21st wedding anniversary, when they finalized their separation with a divorce. Then the healing began. It came slowly at first, but when I was dropped off I would see my parents talking. I never had the misconception that they would get back together; my only hope was that they would become friends again and be able to enjoy each other’s company.
That was the first time I witnessed a second chance in the making, a true opportunity to start over. The next time was far more drastic. It happened only a few years after their divorce.
My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and had fought it into remission; that is a second chance in and of its self. Unfortunately, there is more. The lung cancer came back just shy of a year later and metastasized quickly into his esophagus. My dad, being the strong and stubborn individual he was, battled it with everything he had. After a long struggle he appeared to be getting better, eating steak and walking around like he used to. Everything appeared to be going well.
That was the calm before the storm; two days after that first steak dinner, his condition worsened. It continued to deteriorate rapidly over the next few days; he was surrounded by his family in the hospital as he fought for days and finally succumbed to the terrible disease.
So where was the second chance?
Within hours of reading the gospel of John to him, he rededicated his life to Christ after years of growing away from his faith. It was a bittersweet time; minutes after he rededicated his life, he slipped out of consciousness and passed away.
As I look back on those last years of my father’s life, I see many second chances. Some were passed by and some were fully embraced. Most importantly though, I see a man who took a second chance and was rewarded with the love of his family, and the love of his savior. When I am asked what I believe, I look back at my father and can whole heartedly say that I believe in the love of family, the grace of God, and the power of second chances. These beliefs have shaped my life into what it is today; a life that my dad would be proud of.