“Our help comes from the Lord,” Ashley Wood told me in a lengthy message sent through Facebook Messenger. “So you grab his hand and he leads you out of that pit, into the sunlight and breathes strength directly into your deflated lungs.”
When I first spoke with Ashley, her husband of 17 years, Mark, was having good and bad days. In October 2017, he was diagnosed with an incurable and extremely rare form of bone cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma. Today, those days have shrunk to hours — there are fleeting moments of joy bookended by hours of suffering.
The Louisiana-based couple, as well as their three daughters, are finding themselves at times sinking deeper and deeper into that pit, yet the glimmer of sunlight remains because God “has been our refuge every step of this nightmare,” Ashley said.
The Wood family first garnered attention in September, when Ashley posted photos to Facebook of two of their daughters — 16-year-old Aidan and 14-year-old Adyson — in wedding gowns alongside their father. In the description of the album, she wrote, “Fast forwarding time.”
“I am speechless. Tears streaming down my face. This is the most beautiful, touching thing I have ever seen,” wrote one commenter. “I don’t know you or your family, but [I am] asking God to be with you during this heartbreaking time.”
Ashley said she wanted her two younger daughters (the oldest, Alexis, is already married) to know what it would be like to be with their dad on their wedding days, and for Mark to see them in their dresses, which were purchased by a family friend who learned of Ashley’s plan on Facebook.
From there, all the details began to fall into place — a clear sign of God’s handiwork, according to Ashley.
“A florist friend made them bouquets to complete their attire, another friend offered to have us come to her beautiful location so that I could photograph this event in an actual wedding venue, [and] our hospice coordinator arranged for a hairdresser to come out to do their hair,” she explained.
Seeing Mark’s eyes “light up” as his two young daughters modeled wedding dresses is an image “I’ll never forget,” Ashley added.
“We wanted to deliver hope to those who may be in a similar situations, to show them all God has done and that they, too, can do life’s hard things,” she said of why she shared the simulated wedding photos on Facebook. “Only God can make broken things beautiful.”
God and His people have been good to the Wood family. In addition to all the support they received to pull off the wedding day photoshoot, a complete stranger reached out to a travel agency and paid for the Louisiana family to have one final vacation with Mark in Maui. Those experiences, Ashley said, are “a beautiful testament to God.”
Through it all, they’ve learned suffering is not the absence of faith. Rather, faith is what gives them the strength to endure, to press on, and to trust in God despite the brokenness of this world and the pain that so often accompanies it. A pain that has only grown more intense as the days march on.
Ashley, her children, and her husband have seen there’s no such thing as “the perfect Christian life” on this side of heaven. But just as the late author C.S. Lewis said, the Lord “shouts in our pains,” and the Gospel shines through anyway.
“It is when we share our brokenness, through the lens of the Gospel, that we do Kingdom work,” Ashley said. “And that, my friends, is our only purpose.”
If you would like to donate to help carry the financial burden of medical costs for Mark, you can do so by clicking here. Please continue to pray for the Wood family as they journey together through this trying season.