In 2003 Robert Matthews called a radio station and told them this: “[Two years ago] my wife and I found out we were going to have our first child. She planned a trip out to California to visit her sister. On our way to the airport, we prayed that God would grant my wife a safe trip and be with her. “Shortly after I said ‘amen,’ we both heard a loud pop and the car shook violently. We had blown out a tire. I replaced the tire as quickly as I could, but we still missed her flight. Both very upset, we drove home.”
That was the morning of September 11, 2001—a day every adult American remembers. Robert received a call from his father that morning, a retired New York City firefighter. Without telling him why, his father asked what his daughter-in-law’s flight number was. When Robert explained that she had missed the flight, Jake Matthews told him that her flight had crashed into the southern tower. Robert was too shocked to speak. His dad also informed him that he was on his way to help rescue survivors—that he felt he had to do something.
Robert continued, “I was concerned for his safety, of course, but more because he had never given his life to Christ. After a brief debate, I knew his mind was made up. Before he got off the phone, he said, ‘Take good care of my grandchild.’
“Those were the last words I ever heard my father say; he died while helping in the rescue effort. My joy that my prayer of safety for my wife had been answered quickly became anger. I was angry at God, at my father, and at myself. I had gone for nearly two years blaming God for taking my father away. My son would never know his grandfather, my father had never accepted Christ, and I never got to say goodbye. Then something happened.
“About two months ago, I was sitting at home with my wife and my son, when there was a knock on the door. I looked at my wife, but I could tell she wasn’t expecting anyone. I opened the door to a couple with a small child. The man looked at me and asked if my father’s name was Jake Matthews. I told him it was. He quickly grabbed my hand and said, ‘I never got the chance to meet your father, but it is an honor to meet his son.’
“He explained to me that his wife had worked in the World Trade Center and had been caught inside after the attack. She was pregnant and had been caught under debris. He then explained that my father had been the one to find his wife and free her. My eyes welled up with tears as I thought of my father giving his life for people like this. He then said, ‘There is something else you need to know.’
“His wife then told me that as my father worked to free her, she talked to him and led him to Christ. I began sobbing at the news. Now I know that when I get to heaven, my father will be standing beside Jesus to welcome me, and that this family would be able to thank him themselves.
“When their baby boy was born, they named him Jacob Matthew in honor of the man who gave his life so mother and baby could live.”
This story of a mother in distress and a man who worked to save her body while she worked to save his soul always brings tears. (Partly because I wish I had the assurance Robert received that I would see my father again one day.) But it also reminds me that while our fathers give us our natural life, they sometimes need our prayers and help finding the eternal life that the Heavenly Father wants to give them.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NLT)