Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Own Baseball Tribute

This is my "baseball tribute" with a few of my favorite pictures from years past, as I celebrate a one in a million coach!

I love how he is video-taping the boys doing their "chant" here. He took this on Saturday, June 29, 2013. That night before he had his cardiac arrest, he was showing this to me and smiled, watching it several times. This was the last video he took on his phone. He was gone 4 days later.

Some older pictures from teams in the past
Helping Colby bat
I think back on all the springs and summers that have been consumed with baseball. Each one special for it's own reasons. Each team we were a part of. Each boy and family. Countless nights on the back porch listening to my husband…"Coach Rod" in his truest form, planning the next game's batting line up, how he wanted to rotate the players, game strategies, who might be out of town, who he wanted to try at this position or that, how he could come up with a way to teach something and make it "stick." I'd hear about his frustrations with how other team's coaches handled the kids on their teams…yelling at them too much, tearing them down, or just plain stealing the joy and love of the game, because of their intensity and consumption with winning.
Knights All-Star team
I heard countless times how important the life lessons were and how he just hoped these boys could "get it" and enjoy it….winning was really secondary. Don't get me wrong, he wanted to win. Most of all though, he wanted the boys to grow in their confidence, never give up, give it their all, improve because they worked hard, and feel a sense of pride and togetherness as a team, due to what they had accomplished. If those things happened and they were having fun, it was a winning season despite what the record said.

After the regular season….Bombers won their age division championship!

I can say that he truly cared for each of the boys he coached. Did some frustrate him more than others? Sure…but I know he saw it as his mission to instill something in these boys that would last a lifetime and would be much more far-reaching than baseball. He would lay awake at night after games worrying about players and how they were doing if they had a rough game. He would even pull them aside after the games or call them later as he thought of things he needed to say to them. He would ask me to video this one's swing or that one's pitch, so he could watch it later and try to figure out how to help whoever it was.

This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. This player was really down on himself,  after a hitting slump. I remember he came in the dug out and talked to him for what seemed like forever, even as the game was continuing to go on. It was more important to him in that moment to encourage this player!

Presenting Kai, with one of the character "rock" awards at the after-season pool party. I love Kai's smile!
Always having fun!

At the time, I obviously knew this was his love and passion. I enjoyed watching him in his element. It felt tender to listen to this Coach (who was serious business on the field) care deeply for the hearts of his players long after a game was in the books. There is something about watching someone you love doing what they love. To know they are being filled up and have found themselves right where their heart most desires to be. It is empowering and I felt that way as his wife, when it came to baseball. I didn't always get all the rules and why he did certain things, but I was never more proud of him than when he was doing his baseball thing!

Now I just feel very empty. Lost. Something feels missing. Everything feels missing. I have found myself especially sad at night after everyone goes to bed and just not sure how I'm going to juggle the logistics of getting everyone to practices and games. More than that, I just feel overwhelmed and unsure of how I'm going to make it through a whole season of baseball without him. I know I will. I just don't want to, and quite frankly I am mad about it. We are the baseball family and he was the cornerstone of that. I feel very ill equipped to head that up for us as a family now.

Brentwood Civitan dedicated Field 3 to Coach Rod this past week. I just don't have the words to explain what an honor that is and how proud I am. There have been 3 fields named after individuals at the park. The commissioner explained that those had been named after men who had devoted 20 + years of service to the Civitan Ball Club. It is only in true "Rod Cook" fashion that he would have a field named after him, after only coaching 1 season at Civitan. He's just that kind of guy. He's just that kind of coach. I know he would be humbled and scratching his head over it, because he really did just do what he loves. He just did it exceptionally well!
Here's to you, Babe! You are a legend and I love you forever!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


The boys and I are here at the beach for spring break. We just needed to get away. I needed a mental escape and they needed some fun without routine. I remember booking the flight and condo months ago and thinking ahead to what this would be like. I don't think I could've begun to capture then, what consumes me now. If so, well,... I may not have come. Don't get me wrong, aside from a bumpy start (literally, on the airplane and figuratively as well), I have marveled at these three boys and how blessed I am to be their mom. We have had a lot of fun together and I have enjoyed just watching and interacting with them, whether it's playing on the beach or eating bowls of popcorn with m&m's, while watching movies each night in our condo.
I needed to do this alone. They needed to see that I could do this alone. I have. They saw. Now I feel the weight of the "aloneness." I see so many families here and truly feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. Our first family vacation without him. His absence is overwhelming. I still want to automatically say "party of 5" when asked at the restaurant. I want to shake the dad on the beach who is consumed with his iPhone, while his son digs in the sand alone, just 4 feet in front of him. I cry every time I see a couple about our age walking down the beach holding hands. I can hardly bear to watch the sunset (one of our favorite things to do together), yet at the same time, I'm drawn to it and completely overtaken by the beauty of it.
There are also the logistical issues. Everything has to be thought through, including trips to the bathroom, because there is not someone else there to stay with those who don't need to go, etc. I see lots of people out jogging and wish I had that luxury. When one wants to walk around looking for sea shells…guess what…we all need to go looking for sea shells. There is a lot of compromise going on, which is good for the boys. At the same time, it is a constant reminder that I am outnumbered and missing my other set of parental eyes and hands.
And then, on the other hand, I am thankful for the 2 dads and their sons, who came over and asked my boys if they wanted to play ultimate beach frisbee with them. I laugh at the way Cooper talks to himself, throws sand passionately into the water, and dances in front of the waves. I enjoy watching Colby work so diligently, tongue sticking out, on the hole he is digging in the sand. I smile as Carson spends an hour molding the perfect "beach chair," fully equipped with "arm rests," out of sand for me to sit in, and then says "that will be a dollar" after I actually sit in it. I love being told, "mom, you are pretty good at throwing the frisbee" and "mom, you are spoiling us" because they've gotten ice-cream twice since we've been here. I enjoy hearing the laughter and watching them throw the football on the beach. I even enjoy seeing them covered from head to toe, every crack and crevice, in white sand…because it means they have had FUN!
So, even while nothing feels right in my world. Even when Bunky being gone feels magnified times 1,000 while on vacation, I have felt God's presence every day. It's hard to be in a place like this and NOT feel more deeply connected to the Maker of the universe.

We can all now say, we did it. There were times it just felt wrong and hard. But, there were times it has felt okay. I am convinced these moments will always have their sting. My new normal is not what I would choose, but it is not without hope either. I will take one step forward. I may take two or three or four back. I may even have to be carried on some days. But. I. Will. Step. Forward. In. Hope.
Carson stopped on our walk down the beach to make a heart with  "RC/ Dad"   :(
Finally, speaking of Hope, I listened to this song several times tonight on my iPod, as I watched the sunset. Tears streamed as I thought about the hope that IS in front of me, because of what Christ did on the cross. Our circumstances and the things that seem big to us in this life, are like the tiny grains of sand on this beach, in light of eternity.

"God, help me fix my eyes on YOU."

Here is a link to listen to the song by Danny Gokey. He wrote this song as part of his healing after his wife died unexpectedly, right before his audition for American Idol (Season 8). He ended up taking 3rd place.

Here are the lyrics to "HOPE IN FRONT OF ME" by Danny Gokey

I've been running through rain 
That I thought would never end 
Trying to make it on faith 
In a struggle against the wind 

I've seen the dark and the broken places 
But I know in my soul 
No matter how bad it gets 
I'll be alright 

There's hope in front of me 
There's a light, I still see it 
There's a hand still holding me 
Even when I don't believe it 
I might be down but I'm not dead 
There's better days still up ahead 
Even after all I've seen 
There's hope in front of me 

There's a place at the end of the storm 
You finally find 
Where the hurt and the tears and the pain 
All fall behind 

You open up your eyes and up ahead 
There's a big sun shining 
Right then and there you realize 
You'll be alright 

There's hope in front of me 
There's a light, I still see it 
There's a hand still holding me 
Even when I don't believe it 
I might be down but I'm not dead 
There's better days still up ahead 
Even after all I've seen 
There's hope in front of me 

There's a hope still burning 
I can feel it rising trough the night 
And my world's still turning 
I can feel your love here by my side 

You're my hope 
You're the light, I still see it 
Your hands are holding me 
Even when I don't believe it 
I've got to believe 
I still have hope 
You are my hope

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Sunday, March 9, 2014

5 Years Cancer Free!

Preparing to go back for his MRI. His favorite nurse, Christa, reminding him of what all will happen.
Waking up!
This past week, Cooper went for his final MRI and appointment with his Oncologist. I am praising God for a clear scan and clean bill of health for my "one in a million"boy! I never take for granted what could happen. Unfortunately, in this journey, you learn quickly that cancer is unpredictable and sometimes strikes again when you least expect it. I don't think I realized until I got the call from his doctor saying, "it was clear and no evidence of disease", how anxious I really was. Relief came over me in a way that I cannot even put into words.
Cooper with Dr. Ho after his scan
So, I thought to myself over the next few days about how good God is to us. I thought about the lump I felt in my throat, and how I felt like I couldn't even breathe the first time I heard the words, "your son has cancer." I thought about all of the fear, anger, helplessness, and exhaustion that Rod and I endured over that year after his diagnosis. I thought of how it ripped at the very core of our marriage at times…when each of us wanted to handle things in our own way, yet needed each other in spite of how vulnerable it felt. I thought about how hard it was to continue parenting my two other boys, in the midst of caring for Cooper. These are just a few of the thoughts I had…then, I thought…

How God never left us and was holding us each step of the way.
How He bonded us closer together as a couple and as a family.
How He put the very people we needed in our lives to lift us up and support us.
How He comforted me, on many sleepless nights in the hospital with Cooper.
How out of our experience, we have been able to help other families through The Cooper Trooper Foundation.
How Cooper has been completely healed, and only has minimal physical effects from his treatment.
And the list really does go on and on…

Celebrating with his big brothers!
A HUGE party in Heaven happened on March 5, 2014, I have no doubt. God is good and just when I start to feel sorry for myself for the hard stuff I have endured, I am reminded of all the goodness and His presence in my life. Then, I think to myself, how can I be anything but thankful?

Monday, March 3, 2014

When I Want to Flip God the "Bird"

I still feel like he will walk through the doors sometimes. I wash my hands, and I still feel the shock of thinking I lost my wedding ring. Then, I remember, it is no longer on my hand, and I feel overcome with sadness. I still listen to the last voice message he left me, just so I can hear his voice. I sometimes wonder if these things will feel less intense with time. Honestly, I am not sure if I want them to. Oddly, there is something comforting in the vividness of these kind of moments. Almost as if I feel his presence more keenly, even in the midst of the painful sting.

I have avoided doing certain things until the right moment. One of those things is going back and reading what I wrote in my journal in those first hours and days of what turned our whole world upside down. For some reason, I decided to go back and read what I wrote in those first twenty four hours after we got to the hospital.

I basically wrote about the unimaginable shock I was feeling. How surreal this was. How numb and confused I felt. I cried out to God and wrote these words:

  "Father God, please make him whole. Thank you for sparing his life. Please blow everyone's mind with your healing power. I believe you can and will do that."

I read that now and it stirs up a lot of emotion in me. I feel anger. I feel bitterness and disappointment at the outcome. I feel so much pain. I question so many things about the God I grew up believing in. I feel unheard and abandoned. I feel guilt and shame because I am here and he is not. I feel sorrow beyond what any words can explain. And…get ready... I feel loved. Yes, I know that seems conflicting, but I do feel loved. Loved deeply by God.

I also wrote down Isaiah 54:10, that very night in my journal. which is one of my favorite scriptures:

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed; yet my unfailing LOVE for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you."

The "mountains" in my world were definitely shaken, my husband was removed. My prayers and those of so many were not answered the way I wanted. Yet, through all of it I was held in the compassionate arms of a God who will not leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). His presence is still ever so close, carrying me even when I don't realize I will need it. He is near to my broken heart (Psalm 34:18), even when I want to flip him the "bird" and scream "WHY?" I have hope because of HIS promises to me, even though my life feels shattered into a million pieces and I don't want to begin picking them up, because I know nothing will ever be the same again. I will cling to what I believe in my heart to be true.

Revelation 21:5
"He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'. And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'"

Today is 8 months. There is something in the "grief world" called the "6 month phenomenon", which is said to typically occur sometime between the 4th and 9th month. Basically, it is a resurgence of a lot of the grief and emotions experienced in the very beginning, that after a period of time, come rushing back. Our brains, especially after sudden, traumatic loss, are just coming out of the "fog" and really starting to process what has happened and the reality of it's impact. I'm there folks. It is real. Thanks for being a part of my outlet. Thank you most of all for not forgetting to pray for the boys and I daily. I truly cannot tell you how that comforts us. And, if reading this is getting old, then you may want to find a blog about something else, because this is part of the healing process for me. I appreciate those who are coming along for the ride.