I had a dream for our future family. But this dream has been viciously mangled into a horrific nightmare.

Last year, Jillian and I began talking more seriously about trying to start a family. Understandably anxious about pregnancy and delivery, my very practical wife wanted my help to look beyond the pain to the joy of parenting. I didn’t hesitate, as these are two of of my favorite things: comforting Jillian and casting vision.

A couple days later, I shared what was on my heart for her and our future family: Proverbs 31.

This chapter in the Bible is well-known for its description of the ‘excellent wife’, used by countless men to woo and encourage their lady at one time or another (guilty as charged). But my focus was on the first, less familiar section of the chapter. It paints a beautiful and rare picture of a king who leverages his position of power for the sake of the poor and needy: “Open your mouth for the mute, for those who are destitute.”

But there’s a detail that led me to this passage for this particular assignment. Verse one reads: “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle his mother taught him.” This King’s radical compassion and generosity was due to the influence of none other than his mom.

This was the vision that I hoped would help Jillian look to the joy beyond the pain. I told her in tears how I longed for her to impact our children in the same way, to see her multiply what I and others admired so much: her compassion and thoughtfulness.

Proverbs 31 became my anthem for our future family, the legacy I wished to leave through our kids. When we found out Jillian was pregnant, this vision never wandered far from my mind. Though I would be thrilled with a boy or a girl, the thought of having a son seemed to complete the story. So the second we found out we would be having a boy, I immediately thought: Proverbs 31. I get to see it happen. As I began dreaming about life with him, I also thought of the unique relationship he would have with his mom. I even told her I would like to incorporate something from the passage to hang up in his nursery.

I had been given a front-row seat to see something profoundly beautiful happen. I would get to see my wife, the person I admire most, influence our son, the one I already loved without measure.

But this dream I longed to see come true now haunts me, twisted into a nightmare that I cannot wake up from. I now sit lifeless in the front-row seat that I was so eager to occupy. This vision was supposed to help Jillian look past the pain of delivery, but there seems to be no hope of joy beyond the agony.

There’s a haunting irony in the passage that I once clung to for my son’s future. I hoped he would grow up to be a man who would “open [his] mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” But my son is the one who will never have a voice. And in Hebrew, that last word “destitute” means “passing away.”

“What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?”

Proverbs 31:2