Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Little Big Heart

Tonight has been one of the hardest yet. There is nothing to describe the heart brokenness I have felt. I am truly consumed with deep sadness. I'm not sure if I have felt this alone in over 10 months. My larger-than-life, fun, crazy, always-entertaining, silly, almost 6 year old, came crashing down with heart-wrenching sobs for his daddy.   It was so tender, yet also so painful, especially from this boy who was just made to be funny by nature. His little, big heart was laid out in the most vulnerable way. The magnitude of my reality felt like a boulder.

I'm not exactly sure what triggered it, but most likely because I was reading "Heaven is for Real- the kid's version" to Cooper and Colby before bed. We finished the story. We talked some about what animals might really be in Heaven and how it would be "boss" to have wings. Colby started asking about some other things in the story, when I felt something wet on my shirt. I looked over at Cooper and he looked up at me with the biggest crocodile tears just pouring out of his big brown eyes. It completely caught me off guard, as he had just been talking seconds before and never made a sound to indicate he had started crying (which doesn't come easily for him, by the way…at least not in an emotional way).

What happened over the next hour ripped my heart out. I looked at him and said, "Buddy, what are you crying about?" Then, he started sobbing. Like the kind of sobbing that you can't talk through. The kind that sounds like you may not catch your breath. His lip quivering uncontrollably. The next thing was, "I'm just so sad without my daddy." I held him as tight as I could and started wiping the tears from his face. I finally stopped wiping, because they were a streaming flood, and the wiping was doing nothing but irritating his red, wet cheeks even more. He buried his face into my chest, body shaking with the crying, and would look up at my face every few minutes to make eye contact. He saw my tears and would then cry harder. He said it over and over again, "I just miss my daddy," "I wish my daddy were here and not in Heaven."

What do I do with that? I whispered to myself…"WHY GOD?" I can handle my own grief, loneliness, numbness, shock, anger, or whatever the hell else I feel, but holding my joyful little boy (who I wonder at times if he will even have many memories of his dad) while he cries his heart out??  I don't know if I can handle that. He kept saying, "I can't make it stop, momma…I can't quit, crying."

Tears couldn't be stopped as I held him and told him how I miss his daddy so much too, how proud of him his dad was and is, how we will be okay, how God will carry us, how much I love him, how hard I know this is, and on and on. His big brown eyes would look at me as if to seek something more than all those words.

I didn't have it.

I don't have it for myself.

I wonder sometimes if I ever will.

So, I looked back at him with tear-flooded eyes and nothing else to offer. Knowing full well that I knew exactly what he meant when he said, "I can't make it stop." Colby was still holding me tight on the other side as we listened to Cooper cry out over and over. Then, sweet Colby, with his sad-but-tough-face with dry eyes, reached over to put his arm on Cooper's arm. Every once in a while, he would pat me as well.

We cried and prayed. I hoped that praying would be a way to calm Cooper and transition to bed time, as I knew he was exhausted. He just kept sobbing. Carson then joined us after we went upstairs. It was a moment that I felt such despair, as the reality of it felt crushing. The "why's" of this moment were present in every sense. At the same time, I took a "snapshot" in my head of what I was looking at, because it was the most tender and touching thing I think I have ever witnessed. All three boys laid on Cooper's bed embracing each other as Cooper cried loudly. I had a flashback to the picture that was taken right after Cooper was diagnosed with Cancer. Cooper in the middle, being loved on by his brothers. One of my all-time favorites.

Fast forward almost 6 years…basically, the same picture with an unimaginable trigger. Carson rubbed his head and told him he understood and "we will get through this together," while Colby just continued to hug and pat Cooper on the arm. I don't know if it's any indication, but my mom's heart felt enormous with pride and a real hope that these boys will have a bond like no other…There is no doubt the three of them have been through a lot together over the last 5 years. They are already drawn closer together with their mere circumstances, forcing them to be a support to each other in ways that some adult siblings have not even faced.

They are "tight" (as Carson says), just as their dad would want them to be.

I just sat there looking at them. Touching each one of them. Crying without any words. I think at times you just have to resign to the fact that there are sometimes NO words. NONE.

Sometimes the pain is so deep that only tears can carry out of you what words can't possibly say. 

I will be honest…I am wrestling with God tonight. I want these boys to have their daddy here, and I would happily take his place if I could. His plan makes me angry tonight. His ways make me do a lot questioning. I don't want this story that is so full of hurt. My momma's feathers have been ruffled and I'm instinctively ready to give God a big punch in the face for what He's allowed to happen.

Even still…

I trust you Lord Jesus. Your ways are higher. They are not my ways. What is seen is temporal. Your plans for me are to give me a future and a hope. You are Father to the Fatherless. You are near to the brokenhearted. You will never leave or forsake me.

I am loved by You and I matter to you, just as my boys are and do.

I will praise you in this storm, and I will lift my hands…for you ARE who you are, no matter where I am. Every tear I cry, You hold in your hand. You've never left my side. And though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm.

Moreover, I know you have these "little big hearts" in your hands and love them more than I can possibly fathom. Thank you, Lord…even though I say that through my anger and lack of understanding…thank you.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How do you honor someone who lived so big?

It is upon us. I feel it with every one of my senses. Smells of the honeysuckles blooming at the baseball park and hamburgers grilling. The sound of lawn mowers cranking up. Flowers blooming. Sunburned skin. Wet towels and suits strung everywhere, as the pools are now opened for business. Watermelons and strawberries are tasting sweeter. Buzz cuts. School is out. Spring baseball season is over. The warm air and humidity is feeling thicker. Mosquito bites and checking for tics are a common occurrence.

Never before have these things felt so heavy. They carry a deeper meaning this year and trigger thoughts and feelings that seemed unimportant at the time. My mind constantly races back to last year, and with that a great sorrow floods in.

One year…Really? That seems so impossible, yet the reality of it is something that seems tangible. Some days have seemed to drag in slow motion, while other weeks just flew by. Grief is so unpredictable from one day to the next. I can't believe July 3, 2014 will be one whole year since the love of my life left this earth.

So, I have been thinking for a while about how that day looks for us. I do not want it to be about us…I want it to be about Rod Cook, and what his life represented. I want him to be remembered and honored. I want others to be inspired to go beyond themselves and serve others, just as Rod did on a consistent basis. Mostly, I want Christ to be glorified. This is exactly what he would want.

There have been a couple of people who have done something similar to what I would like to do. One family lost their son, Dylan May, in 2009, just before his 5th birthday to a terminal disease. They decided to honor him with "Do it for Dylan Day" and you can find them on Facebook here.
The other is a young widow and mom to four young children, named Sarah Wolff, who lost her husband a little over a year ago. We have "met" through Facebook and she has truly been an inspiration and encouragement to me. She remembered her husband on the year anniversary of his Heaven day with "The Chad Wolff Project". Read about that here. Both of these are essentially an invitation for others to be mindful of and take steps to do something kind for others in memory of their loved one.

I would love to invite you to be a part of "REMEMBERING ROD" by joining the Facebook group I created and inviting others to do the same. Even if they didn't know him…this is a wonderful way for them to know who he was. If there are those not on Facebook, it is still great to participate and I would love to hear about it. Emails can be sent to 

More details to follow, but it's something we will kick off soon, so go like the Facebook page HERE and be thinking about how you would like to REMEMBER ROD!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carson's Birthday

Today was my biggest boy, Carson's 11th birthday. Where has the time gone? By this time next year, I feel certain that he will be taller than me. It seems like just yesterday Bunky and I were anticipating his arrival. We could hardly wait. Then, the day came and our 8lb 6oz baby boy was born. Our world as we knew it would never be the same again. Carson made us parents and stretched our world as "couple" to one of "family." With him came a joy that we could have never imagined and a responsibility that stirred up unchartered fear, that naturally comes with being a parent. I was especially thankful for a healthy baby after having a miscarriage previously. I remember thinking to myself, "Just be thankful" when he screamed for hours every day with horrible colic, for over 3 months! Nonetheless, he was a beautiful blessing and continues to make me so proud.
It's hard to celebrate your child's birthday without dad there. It just feels all wrong. I just keep thinking about how the years are going to keep coming and going. Each birthday will represent another year without their dad. Carson said he really had a good day. I tried to make it a special day for him, but I am aware of my great sadness that lies just under the surface of the smile, I try desperately to display. I told him over and over how proud of him I am and how much I love him and that I am thankful that he was born. I just wish his dad were here to say those very things to him as well. Somehow, it doesn't feel like enough coming from just me. I'm thankful for those who took the time to call, text, send Facebook messages, or just tell him "happy birthday." He felt loved and special. I guess it will just never be the same and that will have to be okay. My boys are one of the greatest gifts God has given me through their dad. I will always be thankful for their lives. I will always cherish another year with each of them. 
Turning "11" with his brothers, being goofy this morning
Carson and his friend, Andrew Whetstone at Buffalo Wild Wings with a HUGE chocolate fudge cake they brought out for him!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day

Mother's day has always been quite bittersweet for me. Losing my mom to cancer as an 8 year old made it a difficult holiday. I remember special activities or days with mom at school feeling awkward and uncomfortable, as I knew of no one else in my shoes. I remember feeling sad and even embarrassed that I didn't have my mom here on this earth, like everyone else I knew. I never knew quite how to talk about it, so I didn't much. I would have just as soon skipped Mother's Day altogether. My dad remarried Anita a while later, which I am thankful for. I feel especially blessed to have her in my life. There were times I couldn't see what an amazing job Anita did of mothering me, because of my own bitterness. She is a gift and loved deeply. I see now how well she loved and cared for me, yet respected my need to honor the relationship I lost with my own mom, and the hurt that sometimes came out sideways with that.

I remember for the first three years of our marriage, before kids, Bunky being ever so mindful of the sting Mother's Day carried for me. He said to me, "One day when we have kids, this day will have a new meaning to you, and that's going to be so great." I remember those words so clearly, as we sat in a pew at Calvary Baptist Church on a Mother's Day, in Tuscaloosa, AL.

I remember the Mother's Day after we lost our first baby to a miscarriage at 12 weeks. We were devastated. I remember feeling like this baby had been ripped away from us so suddenly, as we had already heard and seen a strong heartbeat. We were so thrilled at the thought of becoming parents and Bunky had already started making a list of girls and boys names to consider. It was so unexpected. Dreams and plans shattered in an instant. Out of nowhere.

 This was the beginning of many challenges that would come our way. These were the kind of things…the really hard things that God would bring us through together and build the strong foundation we would need for life that was yet to come. We just didn't know that then. But really, you don't ever know in the midst of those moments. It's not until later that you can begin to see glimpses of God's work in your circumstances. That Mother's Day, he gave me a necklace, made to resemble a mother with her baby that was yet to be born.

Since then, God has blessed me with my 3 sons. I love each of them with a love I never thought imaginable. They are each unique in their own way. Each a gift. Bunky was right...Mother's Day holds new meaning for me now. I give thanks that I was entrusted with these boys. They are my joy. They keep their dad's spirit alive and are a precious reminder of the unconditional and beautiful love I shared with him. They give me something to celebrate, and for that I am so grateful.

Mother's Day 2014 is another first, nonetheless. With younger children, it is typically dad who encourages and plans for making mom feel special. I realize how special I feel, despite his absence. My boys remind me daily of why being their mom is my most important job, and they do it without saying a word. Still, I will miss how Bunky went out of his way to treat me like a queen on Mother's Day. He made sure I felt loved and appreciated. He made sure that Mother's Day was not a dreaded day, as it had been for many years of my life.

I can genuinely say we appreciated each other's roles as parents to our children. Something about hearing the words, "You do an amazing job as their mom," meant something more coming from him. It just validated my worth as a mom to know my husband and their dad, gave his sincere appreciation for what I do with the children we share. So, I will miss hearing that from him this year. I will miss the extra special things from him on that day. But more than anything, I will just miss him. I know my boys love me and appreciate me and that is really what it is all about, but he was the one who was my biggest support in that role. The one whose opinion mattered the most to me. I certainly don't feel as adequate in my role as mom without him here and I'm certain I couldn't make it without all my friends and family coming alongside me and lifting me up…especially over these last 10 months.

My heart also goes out to Bunky's mom, as she goes through her first Mother's Day without her only son. I can only imagine the ache and pain that she feels as a mom, especially on Mother's Day this year. She loves her grandsons dearly, and I pray that they will be a source of comfort and joy to her for years to come, knowing that they carry on their daddy's legacy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

10 months

Yesterday was 10 months. Something about entering in to the "double digits" time frame of when I said goodbye feels so surreal. The year mark is upon us. It is just around the corner. This time 10 months ago, we were doing what we are doing now…baseball…just without him. School is winding down. The anticipation of summer is palpable. Time is moving quickly.

I was cleaning out the garage today and found some old play books and clipboards he used with his baseball team this past year. He spent hours at the kitchen table scratching notes and thinking through lineups. I remember how it sometimes irritated me, because he would be completely engrossed in preparing for the game, long after the boys were in bed. Preparing not only to teach the fundamentals of baseball, but also preparing to tie that in with something bigger about life. It was his passion. It makes me smile to think about it now. Always a coach, in every sense of the word. It is difficult these days to find coaches who truly care that much, so it just fills me with pride to know that he did. I see the benefit of that played out after the fact. Boys he coached go out of their way to come up and say hello and see how I am doing. They love to talk about his impact on their life and share stories of Coach Rod. He made a mark on them that extended far beyond baseball. That is exactly what he always hoped he would do. No doubt about it…he did.

So, as far as how we are doing. It is so day to day. I still feel like I've lost a limb and am trying to navigate how to make myself function without it. It's a constant awareness of what is gone that grasps me tighter than I can put into words. Everything is the same, yet very different. Loneliness is real and sometimes just feels so intense. Even when I'm surrounded by people close to me, including my kids…a huge loneliness exists, that was only filled by his presence in my life. I'm also completely aware of Christ's tender love for my broken heart. I am desperate for Him in ways like never before in my life. I am choosing JOY in the midst of brokenness and sorrow. I may not always "look" joyful, but I'm believing God is the hope in front of me that will satisfy my every need and sustain me on the days I just want to shut it all out.

It's hard to look forward right now. As I think about summer and the approaching 1 year mark, well…I honestly can't catch my breath. It truly feels overwhelming and hard to breathe. I am trying to focus on the day in front of me. What God wants to teach me in those moments. I want to be open and listen, rather than be so consumed with grief that I can't hear what He may want to say to me. I am planning something cool to remember him. I haven't worked all the details out in my head, but I will. I want to remember and honor the amazing man that Rod Cook was. I'm so thankful for so many in my life who haven't forgotten and continue to love the boys and I well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

March and April Wrap Up

In my effort to keep memories recorded, I feel the need to do a little "Recap" of the last 2 months. Nothing of great substance, just day to day life and what's going on in our world. Memories fade over time. It is important to me to record with pictures and words. I want my boys to look back and see that we were making it and even having some fun times, during a devastating loss. Because of God's great love, we are not consumed!
We started the month off with Cooper's "Cancer Free" MRI! The 5 year mark was a milestone and I am so thankful for his life and continued good health. 
Basketball season wrapped up and both Carson and Colby had a GREAT season playing with Coach Jeremy as the Tigers and Dominators. 
We went to Seagrove Beach for Spring Break. It was Cooper's first time to fly. We really enjoyed the house we stayed in on the beach. Grandma also came and joined us for a night and spent some time on the beach with us. It was a great escape for us!
I think most difficult of all was the beginning of baseball season. All 3 boys are playing this year. It has been emotionally and physically draining doing baseball almost every night of the week…some nights with multiple games. I could not do it without so many helping me. Their daddy loved baseball and not a step is taken into the ballparks without him on my mind. There is a gaping hole with him gone.

Brentwood Civitan honored him by naming a field after him…"Rod Cook Field"…it was a special night, that I feel certain the boys and I will never forget.

Coach Charles, Brett, and Todd presented me and the boys special "Bombers" jerseys with Rod's # from last year on the back. (Carson has his regular jersey # on in these pictures). So thoughtful and meant so much to me.
On Easter we went to church and then went to our dear friends (the Whetstone's) home to grill and let the kids hide and find Easter eggs. It was a gorgeous day. The true meaning behind Easter was more real to me than ever. I felt Christ's deep love for me and hope filled my heart. I will see my husband again one day. God is good. All. The. Time.