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. 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 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 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 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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Don't Forget Dad"...Don't worry...we won't!

I've said this before, but Father's Day and Mother's Day both come with a bag chock-full of emotion for me! I'm sad, I'm grateful, I'm lonely. I'm experiencing joy one minute and such grief the next. I'm basically one hug or look away from completely losing it on anyone who might interact with me.

The commercialization of these two days get on my LAST nerve! Much like several other holidays. Really...if I get one more email in my inbox or see one more commercial or sign about Father's Day deals, I may vomit. "Don't Forget Dad" is my favorite. Really?!

"Don't forget to spend lots of money on dad" is what they really should come on out and say. After all, it's one more opportunity for businesses to market their products and play on the guilt we have if we don't buy something super special or super expensive for dad! "Get dad what he really wants" is also one of my faves! (insert sarcasm)

In the meantime, it comes over as so trite to those who don't have a dad to celebrate. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to do something special for dad (and moms) on their day, but it doesn't have to be so "in your face" and marketed in a way that equates dollars with how much you care. To a child, or adult for that matter, who doesn't have their mom or dad here to celebrate, forgetting is impossible.

In fact, how can we forget? How could we ever forget? He was here and he's gone. If he were here, we would celebrate every day...because every day is a gift! And we don't have every day anymore....we don't have any days EVER again.

I know I sound bitter, and to be honest, there is still some bitterness to work through. I will own that.  And I'm in therapy with God about that. My point of even writing was not to go on a lashing out spree of the highly commercialized Father's or Mother's Day. (I will still do a little something for mine and Bunky's dad, just to be clear. I'm not a total Father's Day Grinch.) The boys and I will also spend the day away from the "hype" of it all and just enjoy remembering their dad in our own way.

My point to all of this...If you are blessed to have your earthly father something to remember your dad EVERY chance you get. Make the most of opportunities throughout the year to celebrate and show them love and appreciation...not just on one day.

I found this sweet note from Carson to his dad the other day (and by the way, it was not a Father's Day gift). I remember Carson giving it to him and he immediately put it on his bulletin board in his office. I found it there the other day behind some other things that had gotten pinned in front of it. I remember how he was so proud to get this from Carson, and despite his "tough guy" appearance, he was teary as he read it. Their dad knew he was loved by his boys and I'm sure he would tell you what a big deal that was if he could.
So, please DON'T forget dad this weekend...I can assure you we won't. But, don't forget him all year long, either! Also, I am pretty certain if you ask, your dad will tell you "what he really wants" is to be loved and appreciated ALL year long! Happy Father's Day to my daddy, Rod's dad, my grandfather and many other amazing dads out there!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day

This is one of the few pictures I have of me and my mom. I was 7 years old and we took a trip to California to Disney. What I didn't understand at the time was that we were also going out to California for her to undergo treatment at one of the multiple places they attempted to "heal" her cancer. A little over a year later, she would take her last breath on this earth.

I miss her, even though I don't feel like I got the chance to know her. There is just something about a girl and her mom. Something that I grew up wishing I had. Something that as an adult, I realized even more how much I needed. I knew she was sick. I knew she couldn't do the things that other moms could do. I knew she was losing weight and losing hair. I knew that people came and went from our house a lot. I knew that she was at the hospital a lot. I knew that my brother and I had to be cared for by others. What I didn't know is how her death was likely imminent without a medical miracle and that I was about to experience a loss that would impact me so deeply forever.

Now as a mom of 3 boys who have lost their dad so unexpectedly and early in life, there are moments that take my breath away and bring me back to being that little girl again. I sometimes think it is a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because I can empathize with my boys in a way so profound. I know how much things don't feel right in their world. I know how unfair they feel like life is when their dad can't be around when everyone else's is. I know how their heart longs for one more day with him. I know how angry they feel when a friend takes their dad for granted or vice versa. I know how Father's Day will feel like a slap in the face, until hopefully one day when they themselves become a father and that day will have new meaning and a reason to celebrate. I don't just hug them and say "I understand"...I really do! Those are not empty words and they know it.

A curse because I also know how time does and will heal some of their pain, but in a lot of ways, there will still be an empty place that nothing and no one can make complete. And for that part, my heart just has to grieve with them and pray that their Heavenly Father will help them see the beautiful and purposeful story He has created...even in the midst of the brokenness. It's hard. It sucks. It hurts. But God does redeem and He will do so in His perfect timing.

I'm so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be a mom to these boys. If they only truly knew how they allow me to feel such joy when I only see dark circumstances in front of me. They challenge me to be a better person and follower of Christ. They cause me to lean more heavily on God for strength to parent alone. They push me, without even knowing it, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

These precious boys were part of God's redemption plan in MY story. He knew that I would need them, and that unfortunately, they would need me in ways that I could only fulfill with the loss of my own mom as a child. He so perfectly entrusted these boys to me, and while most days I don't feel like I am enough...I know that God must have thought so. And I am grateful for that!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Distracted Easter

This Easter has felt different to me. At the very core, I will just be honest and say that it has felt like something I want to rush through. I've been distracted. I haven't done what I would normally do this time of year. Things like reflecting more on lent and preparing my heart for the single-most important event for those who follow Christ. I haven't cared about what we would wear to church (not that it matters, and I did pull some things together at the last minute). Quite frankly, there was a big part of me that didn't even care if we went to church. I haven't talked with my kids about Christ's death and resurrection and what that means to me regularly. I haven't done the "Resurrection Eggs" and the 40 days of devotions that I normally do.

And you know what, I haven't really felt that much guilt over it either. Why? Because I just haven't let myself. I have filled every inch of brain space with some distraction....any distraction. Some good and most not so good. I think I have just wanted to coast through and come out on the other side.

As I tried to really grasp why I have been like this...because it does bother me, when I really stop and let myself think about it. I mean, what kind of Christian wouldn't care about Easter and what kind of "good mom" wouldn't impress these things upon her children? My "should do's" have not been in line with my "want to's" and that causes some controversy in my soul. Controversy that has felt easier to just push aside, instead of digging deeper about the whys.

My head knows how I need to celebrate Easter, but my heart has been resisting. Satan is absolutely loving it and I have pretty much let him have a big ole bunking party in my head, as he continues to remind me of the brokenness, loss, bitterness, and self-pity going on in my life. I mean, I was honestly pissed that I put on a dress, make-up, and wore jewelry and not ONE of my boys even commented. I don't really expect them to, after all, they are 12, 10, and 7 year old boys, for crying out loud. But, nonetheless, I pouted, in that moment, about the fact that no one was there to notice I wasn't wearing black sweat pants, a sweatshirt, and that I had actually put on make-up! I was grouchy because it took me 5 minutes to fasten my necklace, and all I wanted was my husband there to do it. I didn't want to walk into church, because it sucks to not have your spouse beside you. (That is actually true every Sunday, but especially on holidays).

And now I sit here and realize my distraction by such surface, minuscule, and unimportant events. I'm aware of the expectations. I refuse to let Satan suffocate me in shame because of it. But in this very moment, I just want to fall on my face and rejoice that He is risen, indeed! It's not about church or resurrection egg traditions, or what you gave up for lent. It's not about having the right outfits, easter eggs, or even having your family together. And even when this "Christian mom" isn't on her game, He reminds me that despite all of my distractions....He still did what He did for ME and I can now live in that hope EVERY SINGLE DAY....even with no make-up and sweat pants on.

He is Risen! That holds more meaning for me than ever before. Don't let distractions get in the way of drilling down to the heart of Easter. The resurrection is real and something we all should spend our lives being grateful for and rejoicing because of...not just on Easter day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Happy 10th Birthday Colbster

Today was Colby's 10th birthday. Double Digits! I remember thinking that was such a big deal when I was a kid. It turned out to be a Wednesday at home, because of the "snow day." Of course, while a lot of kids would have probably liked that, I think Colby was a little disappointed to not be at school. He likes the recognition that accompanies a birthday celebrated at school. Overall, though, I think he had a good day. I did my best to make it special and he was his typical, grateful self for that.

He told me a few nights ago, through big tears and little arms that wouldn't let go of me..."If I could just have one thing for my birthday, it would be for my dad to give me a hug." Oh, if only I could make that happen, somehow, you better believe me...I would! He has been better able to verbalize his feelings about his dad over the last several months. It's heartbreaking, yet there is a relief I feel with it, at the same time. He is my "stuffer" and so any time he can express his emotion, it is a big deal and a really good thing.

Just feeling thankful tonight, for my middle boy, who is truly a joy! I guess I am feeling a little sad too, because celebrating birthdays just feels different. I don't really know how to explain it, but it just does. It's like showing up for something that is important, monumental, and really special...only to realize someone you really thought would be there, isn't. Someone who should be there, is not.  I sensed it today with Colby and I do think he will probably have an especially hard time with it since he and his dad had birthdays 3 days apart and always celebrated together. I pray he felt lots of love and the celebration of his day was enough to overshadow whatever felt lost.

Happy Birthday Colby Watson Cook!

I love you MORE,