Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When Celebrations are Hard

It's been a while since I have written anything. I will have to admit that this was intentional. It's been a combination of just where we are with life, raising 3 active boys alone, and also not really knowing how to express what's going on in my head and heart.

Blogging has been an outlet for me. A way to share what God is showing me. A place to vent and organize my messy thoughts. It's also very vulnerable. I have been in a long season of not wanting to expose that vulnerability. I can't tell you how many times I have sat down to write and then shut my feelings off because I just don't have the energy to "go there."

Today would have been Rod Cook's 47th birthday. This time of year is difficult for me. It's a cold season of just surviving and full of celebrations that should be joyful, but aren't (aside from my sweet Colby's birthday, which just happened 3 days ago).

Anyone who has lost someone close to them can probably agree...a time that should be celebrating another year of life of someone who is no longer here, carries a lot of emotion. There's sadness that the person is no longer here. There's resentment over what "should have been." A day that used to be filled with balloons, cake, cards, and gifts is now a quiet day on the calendar.

It seems to pass in slow motion, and it's as if you know there is something that SHOULD be happening, but it's not. It almost feels like a date on the calendar that your body knows should have something big going on, but it's as if you missed it, even though you are completely aware of it. The heart just knows, no matter how hard you may try to brush past it. There is also guilt over the fact that you are still here and they are not. It's another calendar year and another age that this person never reached.

And, while I imagine that there must be something special going on in Heaven on this day, I can't help but feel cheated that I am not there to be a part of it. As if I could somehow make that day better for him. As if he would even care in light of eternity and the much bigger celebration of being with His King!

So, in light of what should be a day celebrating another year of life for Rod Cook, we will hold our head high and focus on the years he was here. We will talk about him and hopefully laugh and smile, more than cry. We will remember the man he was and the incredible legacy he left in his short time on earth. We will celebrate his love, his loyalty, and his unbelievable gift of making everyone around him feel special.

Happy Birthday, Babe! I couldn't have been more proud to be your wife and the mother of your boys. We can't wait to see you again, but until that day I am clinging to this:

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Rejoice ALWAYS, pray CONTINUALLY, and give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

...even when the celebrations are hard!

Monday, July 3, 2017


Although this day held tears off and on, there were many moments of joy and thankfulness. Many acts of kindness. Many people who remembered, even after 4 years. I am truly grateful for how others don't forget us or Rod (Bunky).

I know there are probably a lot of people who think after 4 years we should "move on." There have been people say to me that we can't live in the past. It comes from a place of good intention and they are absolutely right. We can't. We can't stay stuck in the past. Taking time to remember and honor a life and legacy is important. It is far from living in the past...it is part of healing and moving forward, in my opinion. It is letting your memories be brought to the surface, so that you never forget the impact someone so special has had in your life. That impact is exactly what shapes a part of who we are and actually pushes us forward.

Remembering is NOT Rewinding...it is pushing pause to take it all in. To reflect. And this "pause" can happen as many times as you need to, in the midst of pushing play, and moving forward with your song!

Rod Cook was remembered well today. I love hearing the impact he had on others and today I got lots of emails and texts, which shared that impact over and over again. We even got a video of some sweet friends whose family released balloons and caught a great sunset to honor Rod. Thank you to those who have shared those things with us. I think one of my favorite texts this morning was, "I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember my last conversation with Rod. I will always remember him, always."

Balloons and cards were left by multiple people on our mailbox this morning! Super special surprise to wake up to! Thank you...the boys really loved this!

 The boys and I went to their dad's gravesite to bring some new flowers. It was quick and that was okay. It was the time in the car, as we were leaving, that we talked about how blessed the boys were to have had the dad they did....even if it was for shorter than any of us would have liked.
Then we decided to go see the Cars movie and eat a whole lot of popcorn and m&m's!
Again, I just want to say thank you from somewhere deep in my heart, for letting us remember and joining us as we do! Oh, and we also got some flowers from our neighbor's garden and had several neighbors and friends who came by today. So, to all those who reached out in any way or even just prayed extra for us over the last few days...THANK YOU! We felt the love and it made a day that's hard, full of glimmers of joy and hope. 

Finally, I just want to say that this is not about us. We do not ever want people to feel sorry for us. This is our story. One that I believe God orchestrated for a reason that I may never know. The story is not finished. I am so certain of that. I absolutely want to make sure it is known that we are not strong. We are not to be admired. I hear that a lot, and while it is encouraging, I want people to know there is so much more to that. It is all about God's glory and His redemptive work in and through us. We are only strong because our faith in God enables us to be. Without our belief in Christ and His perfect plan, we would be a crumbled mess...(and still are in spite of that, sometimes; but we are able to get back up). It is only because He died to set us free, that we have HOPE in where Rod Cook's future lies and where ours does. It is only because of Him that we have peace in our hearts that can't be understood by this world. God uses so many people to be His "hands and feet" and that is a big part of where our strength is. I hope to be even 1/2 to others, what people have done for me these past 4 years. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 3rd

July 3rd will always be a day that is difficult in many ways. It is also a day that I want to honor and celebrate a life well lived. A day to laugh. A day to remember a husband, father, son, friend, and incredible person, who made his mark on this world in 42 short years.

His heart for others and the way he encouraged others to be the best they could be, continues to be known and shared by those who were fortunate enough to be the recipient of it. I even just heard from someone a few weeks ago who did not know that he died, but shared the impact he had on him, just as they spent time on the Fellowship Bible Church "parking team" on Sunday mornings.

I'm not going to lie...we are sad. We long for him to be here. If I were really honest, I get mad at him sometimes for leaving me alone to raise these boys, while he gets to bask in the glory of Heaven. I need his wisdom, direction, and input on so many parenting issues. Most of all, I just want him here to share in the joy and heartache that comes with parenting our boys. All week we have just been in a little bit of a yucky place. There have been tears, especially at night, and questions of why it has to be this way.

Tomorrow is a day that we hold sacred and our plan is to visit his gravesite. They don't love to go there and I don't force them to go, but July 3rd is a day that we all just sense that unspoken need to go. They actually have asked if we were going. I think being there (even though it is not often) continues to help with closure in a lot of ways for them. Thankfully, we know his soul is not "there."

Rod Cook's greatest wish was to live a life that had an impact between the "dash" of February 13, 1971, and the day of his death. I would say that he certainly did. In fact, in true fashion, he made an impact even after his death to those who benefitted from his organ donations.

(As a side note for anyone who might be reading this....please talk to your loved ones about this. It's so important. I truly consider it a gift that I knew exactly what he wanted and that he made it clear. It is not a decision you want to be considering in the midst of your shock and grief).

I found the letter from Tennessee Donor Services today, and along with sharing information about the individuals who received life-giving organs from him, I was reminded that he made history in the state of Tennessee, as the 1st person to ever donate his lungs after cardiac death. I was also reminded of the many people waiting for lungs on the transplant list and how hard it is to place this. Her letter stated, "Because of Rod's donation of lungs after a cardiac death (DCD), the opportunity to place lungs from DCD patients will now open the door for more lives to be saved in the coming months and years."

Here is what I know of the man whose life he saved with his lungs...he was 69 years old, had 4 grandchildren who he deeply enjoys, He is a retired nuclear data analyst. He also served in the Army and National Guard. I hope one day to meet him!

Thankful that this is NOT our home and hoping for more joy than tears, as we remember him tomorrow! God is still good!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day for the Fatherless. Don't forget the "gift" of your dad!

So, I really wish...like REALLY wish, that I could say that today was something sweet and special for our family, even with the absence of their dad. Unfortunately, I think it was one of the harder days we have had in a while.

We don't like to go to church on Father's Day...it's just a hard place to be, so we don't. Everyone just slept in and there was yard work that needed to get finished before the rain came, so we worked on that this morning. I saw lots of cars drive by on their way to church or wherever they were going as a family. I wished that were us. Truthfully, I felt pretty angry about it.

We had planned to do our "annual" hike, but that got rained out when the storms started moving in sooner than I thought they would, so we ordered food from our favorite Mexican restaurant "to go" because, A) we were filthy from weed-pulling and mowing, B) it sucks to sit there feeling like we stick out like a "sore thumb" amidst all the "complete" families, and C) I didn't feel like answering, "will your husband be joining you or is dad joining us today" which is a typical question on Father's Day when you eat out at a restaurant, believe it or not. So, we got our food and went home with it.

Our plans to take flowers out to their dad's grave got "washed away" too and none of them wanted to go. We ended up watching lots of back to back shows in a series we have been watching together on netflix. Then, the fighting started between the boys so everyone dispersed and I just wanted to cry. We did end up watching an older little video of some slides I made of pictures of them with their dad over the years. Hard....that is the only word for it. It's like they want to see it, but they also don't. It's a mixed range of emotions and I just didn't know how to handle them all today. I know of several friends who were spending their first Father's day without their dad, and my heart was heavy for them. I also feel the kindred emptiness that a lot of my widow mom friends were facing today and thought of each of them throughout the day.

Basically, I have watched the clock tick by and just wanted this day to be over. I couldn't be more grateful for the dad these boys had, but today I just feel sad and pissed off that he is not here with us. I know I sound like "debbie downer" but that is the reality. I know it's a lot easier for everyone to hear how we were "victorious" over the hardness that this day brings. We were not. And, that's okay. Thankfully, tomorrow is another day. I don't want anyone to pity us or feel sad for our situation. I don't! I only hope that people can stop and realize what they have for what it is...a gift. A gift that is not guaranteed tomorrow.

I've been blessed with an amazing father and Rod's dad is here in Franklin and does a lot to help me and remain a part of our lives, so I am thankful for them both. I hope that every dad out there felt so much love and that every mom did all they could to make that happen for them, and so did every child who has their dad around!!

New mercies tomorrow...thank you Jesus!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Update from the Cooks....almost a year later!

It's honestly sad, yet not surprising to me, that I haven't posted one thing on the blog in almost a year! Our reality is plain busy. There is no other way to explain it. Lots has changed and lots has not.

The school year seemed to fly by with Carson finishing 7th grade, Colby finishing 5th, and Cooper finishing 2nd. Sports, sports, and more sports seem to be what consumes most of our time. They love having a basketball, or any ball for that matter, in their hands.
Time with their friends is important to all of them, as well. They all did great academically and I am really proud of how independent each of them are with their school work. I guess they kind of have to be that way, because there just isn't enough time in our day for me to sit down and "help" each of them.

In October we had the craziness of the Cooper Trooper Pumpkin Patch going on, as always. We also welcomed my great niece into this world, which has been such a treat for me and the boys. We love that she lives here in TN and we get to see her often. My niece and her husband, Jordan, named her Olivia Layne...with "Layne" being named after Rod's middle name! She is one adored little angel.
Back in November, we got to take a beach vacation with our dear friends' the Whetstone's! It was a BLAST!
We continued to spend as much time as possible, when we didn't have games, visiting and reading with our refuge friends on Saturdays. 

In May we went to Arkansas to my niece, Alea's, high school graduation and enjoyed visiting family there. Then, the next week, we headed to the beach with my sister, Heather and her family for our annual beach trip with them and also visited the boys' grandma in Alabama.

Parenting alone is not for the faint of heart. It is emotionally and physically draining. I miss Rod every day and try my hardest to continue keeping his memory alive and talked about with the boys. They miss their dad, but sadly this year, I was more aware of how memories of him seem to be fading for them, despite my efforts to talk about him daily.

God has worked a lot in my heart to remind me that it is okay to move forward. I find myself remembering our loss, without it consuming me or necessarily sending me into a place of deep sadness, as it once did. I will always have my heart ache at the thought of what I wish were still my reality. But, this year has been full of more moments of anticipating what lies ahead and being content in where God has me, trying desperately to embrace my story for what it is and not what I had hoped it would be.

One thing that has been especially neat for me over the last few months, is an opportunity I have had to walk with some other "solo" parents in being on a leadership team for a group at my church. God made it so evident to me that He had plans for me to use my story to reach out and help others. I was able to lead a group of widows/widowers each Sunday as we walked through what it looks like to parent after losing a spouse. They even allowed me to call this group "PALS" (Parenting After Losing a Spouse), which was something God actually showed me in a dream, believe it or not. It has been instrumental in healing for me to share and be vulnerable with others who are doing this parenting journey alone.

We continue to have great friends and support from others when needed. And, while sometimes it feels more lonely and like people have forgotten more and more, I appreciate and cherish when someone remembers and reaches out to let me know they haven't forgotten. I think it is just something to be expected as time goes on, and I try hard to keep that all in perspective.

In a nutshell, this past year has been so fast that it feels like a blur. I have sat down many times to write, because it truly is "therapy" for me and I like to record what is going on with the boys, so that one day they can enjoy reading when I am long gone. There just hasn't honestly felt like enough time to do it in a way that I could even get my thoughts together. Hopefully, I will find more time to stay on top of it.

Finally, I'm reminded so much of all the brokenness and pain we have to endure in this life. I have so many friends who are in extremely hard places right now with everything from a new diagnosis of cancer to battling depression to navigating unbelievably hard stuff with their kiddos. So, I continue to question and doubt, but then I dig deep to remember who holds it all. I remember that this is all temporary. I pray and pray and then pray some more that my doubts and fears will be replaced with hope and trust.  I long for the day when the brokenness of this life is no more and all the tears are wiped away! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Morning He Went to be with Jesus

July 3, 2013...the day that Bunky was taken off of the machines that were keeping him alive, after suffering a massive cardiac arrest. The day that Heaven welcomed a man whose impact on earth was huge. Our loss was Heaven's gain and while I don't believe that any person could possibly make Heaven a better place than it already is...I imagine there was an impact of some proportion the day that Rod Cook came on the scene!

I was asked by the person coordinating the donation of Rod's organs, if I would like to write a letter to the surgeons who would be removing and harvesting his organs, soon after he took his last breath. She said that not everyone does that, but she likes to give families the option to let these surgeons know about the person they will be performing this procedure on. I found out that there would be 4 different teams flown in from different parts of the country that morning, ready to do this procedure, once I said my final goodbye and he was officially no longer alive by mechanical means.

The team was present as I went into the cold and sterile room alone. They stood along the walls quietly, not making eye contact with me. It was pretty dark and sheets were covering portions of the operating room, to make it "feel" like less of an operating room. They played some music that I requested. At 10:42am after I entered a room, dressed in a sterile gown and shoes and a head- covering to kiss him and say my final goodbye, as he was taken off of life support. During the next 18 minutes I cried out to God, pleading for a miracle. The miracle I wanted did not happen and I was crushed.

I was warned that it might be a little scary or he might gasp for a final breath, but honestly, he didn't do that at all. He didn't struggle. He just peacefully stopped breathing. I felt a sense of warmness in that cold room and right before the person who took him off the machines, told me it was done and time for me to go, I already knew. At 11:00am they called his time of death. I left quickly and remember feeling like I could hardly pick up my legs to take a step. The hallway seemed to go on forever and each step felt more and more like a cement block was tied to my feet. I remember two people on each side of me holding me up as I walked. It was over.

I found the letter that I wrote to the surgeons stuck in my Bible about a month ago. I didn't realize it was in there. I will share it here. There are a lot of things about it I would keep the same, but would have probably added some things too. I wrote it at 4:30 am after having almost no sleep for days, so considering that, it was all I had. It was read to the people in that operating room before I even walked in to say my goodbyes. The lady who read it, later told me that there was not a dry eye in the room when she read it to them. I'm thankful they got to hear a little about the man that was about to do this final act of generosity. Here is the letter:

Rod was a 42 year old husband of almost 15 years, father of 3 boys ages 10, 7, and 4. He was an only son of two living parents. He loved Alabama football, golf, watching sunsets at the beach, but most of all, he loved playing with his boys. He was head coach of their baseball teams and could be found daily wrestling in the floor with them. He loved Jesus Christ and had a personal relationship with Him. Rod was an amazing husband, who was loved, adored, and respected by his wife, Missy.

Rod was a District Manager in the pharmaceutical industry for over 10 years and had so many colleagues who respected and loved working with him and for him. He knew how to motivate and inspire others, yet have fun at the same time. 

Rod had so many dear friends...some even dating back from kindergarten, that he continued to have relationships with. His personality is one that just drew people to him. He is deeply loved by so many friends.

Rod was loyal and a man of his word. One of his favorite quotes was, "Don't ever let anyone out-work you." He did everything 120%. He loved his wife and children well and was their provider and protector. If you knew him, you would know that he had a way of making you want to be a better person. There is no doubt that he is now with his Creator and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

His legacy to his children is one that will carry them through, because in these boys' short life with their daddy, he was always pouring into them, encouraging them, teaching them, loving them, and mostly modeling for them what it means to really have a relationship with Christ. 

Another one of his favorite quotes, which is on our back door, that we see each time we come and go, says, "The way you live is a reflection of how you believe, and what you are anchored to."

There is no one Rod wouldn't help. He was kind and giving. What an amazing final act of kindness. I pray, as his wife, that the "light" he was will manifest itself into those who receive this gift from him. I will be praying for your hands to be guided as you allow my husband to do what he would have wanted. I pray that God is praised and glorified through all of this.

Thank you- Missy Cook

Celebrating a life well-lived today and longing for the day we will see him again! A lot of healing has happened in 3 years, and there is still healing yet to be done. I am so grateful for the time we had. Every day is a gift...don't waste it!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rewinding to Remember

I'm not even sure where to go with what I feel. Not even sure if I really know what I feel at any given moment. I find myself wanting to remember and wanting to forget. I want to go back and I want to move forward. The balance between is delicate and a place I struggle to allow myself to just sit in.

I think it's good to remember, to retell, to rewind, to reminisce. It brings a lot of hard to the surface, but brings just as much joy. I was thinking the other day about why people would want to continue to go backward and how it's easy for some people to get stuck there in their grief. However, I think it is also absolutely a necessary part of healing.

I'm going to date myself here, but I remember when I was younger and a song I loved would come on the radio. I would wait for hours just to hit "record" on my jam box, so that I could tape that song and be able to listen to it whenever I wanted. I would rewind the song over and over, listening to it again and again. Sometimes, I might even need to keep rewinding a certain part of the song just to pick up the words that might not be so clear. (No google check for lyrics back then).

In some ways, I think to rewind and really sit in a place that was "back then," even when there are painful parts, allows us to reconcile what that part of our story was about  and see things in light of where we have come. And sometimes, just like a recorded song on a jam box, that rewind needs to happen multiple times. So, today I just feel like I need to go back to this time 3 years ago and just remember and retell. I don't expect that re-telling the story or re-living those horrible hours, will truly reconcile anything. What I do know is that sometimes just being able to go back and be in that place, even though it hurts, brings healing and reminds me of how God has already begun redeeming something so broken. Part of it is knowing that my boys want to know exactly what happened and I want that to be documented for them. Warning...it might take a little while, and there are parts that I won't share here, because they are just sacred and for me to keep close to my heart. I don't expect anyone to even continue reading past this point, and that is so okay with me....it is more for me and my boys than anything or anyone else.

June 30th, 2013, during the early morning hours, took what we knew and rocked it to the core. Before we went to bed that night...after a long, hot day of baseball...this is a glimpse into those last moments:

Bunky had coached back to back games that day with the Barons, and we spent a lot of the evening before just talking about the boys on the team, and his absolute LOVE of coaching. We talked about how we were looking forward to our upcoming 15th Anniversary trip to Cancun. He even talked about how thankful he was for his job that night. Finally, right before he went to bed, he talked about each one of the boys and how proud of them he was for different things that people had recently said to us about each of them. Good, meaningful conversations that were truly a gift, looking back on it. Then, with no concern or complaints, aside from being tired, Bunky went to bed and I came shortly after.

About 3:30 that morning, I woke up next to him, suddenly, and knew something was wrong. I don't really know what woke me up, except that I thought he was snoring loudly. For some reason though, I just jumped out of the bed to run to his side and turn the light on. He appeared to be having a seizure or something. I didn't immediately think heart attack, but did immediately call 911, as I knew he wasn't responding to me and something was very wrong. The operator asked if I knew CPR, which thankfully I did. I remember thinking at first, "why would I do CPR?" Still....just not imagining that he was suffering from a heart attack. I immediately began chest compressions with the operator on the line, who was calling paramedics to come. It became hard to do chest compressions on the bed, and he was too heavy for me to move to the floor by myself, so I called my neighbors, Paul and Tessie, to come and help me. They assisted me in getting him on the floor and doing CPR until the paramedics came. At that point, I realized this was far more critical than I was letting myself believe. They were unable to get a heart rhythm and after 6 shocks with the defibrillator and at least that many injections. At one point, the fire chief asked the question, "IF we are able to establish a heart rhythm in your husband, where do you want him transported?" IF....IF....that word suddenly left me feeling paralyzed....it was not "when" but "if." I had a moment of truly feeling as if I was outside of my own body and wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I just went and prayed out loud over the paramedic working on him and didn't even know what else to do. Finally, they were able to establish a heart beat, and even though it was faint, it was enough to allow them to transport him. I remember moving furniture to allow them to get him out the door and kept praying that the boys would not wake up to witness this.

At some point I called my friend, Molly, who thankfully answered her phone right away at that crazy time of the morning. She came and followed the ambulance to the hospital, so Tessie could stay here for my boys. I was calm riding in the ambulance and recorded numbers for the driver to communicate with the ER at Vanderbilt, as we were on the way there. The paramedic in the back told me that Bunky had tried to breathe spontaneously on his own and that was a good thing. A moment of hope. Still completely numb with shock and not exactly sure what this all meant.

Once at the ER, Everything started to feel like a big blur. I remember I just kept thinking, "how is this happening." A doctor or nurse, I honestly can't remember, came out to tell us he was stabilized and they were going to do a cooling procedure that had been successful with patients who had suffered massive cardiac arrest, to hopefully, prevent severe brain damage. Until this procedure was complete, in 24-48 hours, and warming him back up was done, we wouldn't really know where we stood. However, there seemed to be some hope in this conversation. Then, not even 5 hours later, once we were up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the Cardiologist painted a completely different picture. He just kept saying how very sorry he was that this had happened and did not seem optimistic at all. I think it was in that moment that my heart sank to some place far outside of myself and the despair of realizing I was going to lose him slapped me hard in the face. I just continued to ask, "Is this really happening?"

Over the next 24 -36 hours, it became more and more apparent that the possibility of him surviving was going to take a miracle. Family and friends were called, so many people were in and out, I prayed so hard at times that I actually would sweat in the freezing hospital room. I begged God. I pleaded with Him to amaze everyone with a miracle. I stayed fairly calm, but it was mostly because I was in a state of shock. I had to tell his parents and watch them say goodbye to their only son. I had to do the unthinkable and unimaginable job of telling my boys that their daddy was not coming back. I had to have detailed and very hard conversations with organ donation services, as he wished so generously do this and made that very clear. There are so many pieces to that, which I have trouble recollecting and then some parts that I wish I could forget. However, I remember exactly how broken my heart felt and the depths of despair that made it feel hard to even breathe. I also remember how a peace beyond anything I could explain, overcame me in the most difficult of moments. I knew God was there and I could almost physically feel His presence, each step of the way. I went back and looked at what I wrote in my journal on that first day at the hospital. I wrote the verse John 14:27 and said in my journal that it was what I opened my Bible to. It is what I would cling to. It is the verse that is now on Bunky's marker on his grave.

Goodbyes were said and funeral plans were made. It all happened so quickly. I didn't sleep for several days and don't even know if I actually accepted what was happening until long after it was all over. The smell and sight of food made me sick. I was truly in a state of shock. I do know that I am grateful that he had a Will and had discussed what he wanted in the event of his death. It took a lot of the burden of decision making off of me and allowed me to just be present with my boys. I witnessed so much love and saw just how deeply he cared for others, by the way that others cared for us.

I miss him every minute of every day. I still really cannot believe it. I needed to rewind and remember, but I don't intend to stay there. It is not what he would want for me and it is not what is best for my children. I don't want to forget and so I will let myself go back there when I need to. Remembering is so much more than just retelling a story...it is allowing something new to come from it. There have already been beautiful moments that have come out of this experience and I know there are many more to come. God really does redeem and I pray He uses our story to point others to Him. He continues to remind me how He has never left and never will.

Carson, Colby, and Cooper...You have such an amazing dad. God is not finished with this story and you can know you will see your daddy again one day! Of these things, I am most certain.